Innovation: The next big idea is right in front of you

Published On:
August 6, 2014

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how Rio Tinto and other mining companies are looking to other industries for ideas they can repurpose to support their business strategy – in this case, to cut costs. These companies are now leveraging decades-old technology from the food processing industry, a machine that color-sorts a variety of grains and vegetables, to sift through rock at mines and reduce the amount they need to crush in order to harvest valuable metals. Brilliant.

Innovation can start with a spark of creative genius and sometimes it can grow from exploration of the world outside of your specialty or industry – or from things lying around the house.

Microplane, once a brand known for its woodworking tools, has become a household name in food preparation since one woman borrowed her husband’s rasp to zest an orange for a cake recipe. Thousands of companies have built upon the manufacturing lessons of Toyota and adopted quality control and lean operating processes in corporate offices. Artists and DIY fanatics are always on the lookout for “upcycling” opportunities, turning discarded tires into sculptures or using old handle bars to create a bike rack.

So where will your next product or service idea come from?  Don’t get frustrated when initial brainstorms are not igniting your creativity. Get out there. Explore, observe, and see where it leads you. Your next big idea might be right in front of you. Still having trouble? Try explaining your problem to someone outside of your industry and enlist their creativity as well. Yes, I am volunteering.

Can you think of other products, services or technologies that are now being used or marketed for purposes other than for which they were created?

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