Has an idea ever struck you like lightning, leaving you elated and deliriously happy? When we’re suddenly hit with an idea, it often sparks a euphoric feeling – a feeling of wow.
“Wow” refers to those grand ideas that seem to hold equally enticing possibilities for both consumer and creator, the ones that have the potential to heal a broken market or make available truly new and valuable products and services for society.
But before you get carried away by such visions, remember that just feeling a spark of inspiration isn’t enough. The wow must be accompanied by the how.
The practical part of a project – how you’re going to make the wow come to life – is just as important as that initial burst of inspiration. So, ask yourself questions like, “How do we do it?,” “How expensive is it?” or “How will we generate profit?”
Neglecting to ask the “how” questions is like planning an exquisite dinner made up of spectacular dishes that you haven’t the faintest idea how to make.
Grand innovations aren’t only a matter of eureka moments. In fact, the “wow” doesn’t need to come first. You should actually start with the “how” – that is, the more logistical tasks, like considering the financial or operational reality of the business. From there, you can work your way to wowing the market.
Let’s revisit the Fahrenheit team to see how they integrated this into their approach to the Dubai bank problem.
Instead of counting on a “wow” factor to inspire them, they first asked themselves a whole lot of “how” questions, like “How do we unite different business models so that they become one trustworthy entity?” This then led to the solution of connecting the bank’s various products.
We’ve all heard those miracle start-up stories of major innovations being hatched in some garage or dorm room.
Now everyone wants to mimic the start-up approach, including established companies. Mid-size or even big companies often come to Fahrenheit 212, wanting, for instance, to adopt more of the brave and innovative strategies that make start-ups thrive.
Start-ups don’t see their own ideas that way, however; in fact, they often consider their ideas, projects or strategies obvious.
Let’s examine the upstate New York craft-spirits company, Tuthilltown Spirits, as a case study of a start-up employing strategies so “obvious” that they may seem brilliantly radical to an outsider.
When Tuthilltown Spirits was entering the market, the founders knew they were competing with decade-old or even century-old distilleries.
Consequently, they thought it was a clear priority to figure out a way to make their whiskey age fast. They managed this by using much smaller barrels than those typically found in major distilleries. They also experimented with honeycomb-pattern holes in the barrels, which accelerated the aging process.
And, unlike most whiskey distilleries, they also produced different varieties of whiskey. This was a natural decision for them, because they were working with local farmers and the different grain varieties they got from them.
Another internally obvious solution was to use half-size bottles for distribution. They did this because, though their whiskey yield was still relatively low, they still wanted to reach a variety of retailers.
This idea turned out to be a real success. Because the smaller bottles were easier for shoplifters to grab and steal, store owners often placed them in the store’s high-visibility areas to prevent theft. This gave the brand a lot of extra exposure.
When you encounter a problem at work, do you immediately start trying to figure out how to get around the issue as quickly as possible?
If you do, you might be going about your problem-solving in entirely the wrong way.
To show that the quick-fix approach isn’t all that effective, let’s look at a hotel brand worth billions. First, the problem: the company had found that fewer and fewer top customers were revisiting the hotel. What’s more, they were having difficulty devising attractive perks for customers that competitors couldn’t match.
Though a fancy chocolate on the pillow or fine caviar on ice might distinguish the hotel in the short-term, it wouldn’t take long for competitor hotels to catch on and adopt similar ideas.
To really stand out, the hotel brand wanted to develop an innovative loyalty program that would compel customers to revisit it in the long-run.
So, the Fahrenheit team was brought on board, and its first move was simply to ask the top customers why they’d stopped visiting the hotel. They answered that once they’d earned their platinum member card, they had no incentive to revisit the hotel. They’d reached the top, and so had to book with another hotel. In other words, they weren’t really loyal at all; they just enjoyed the challenge of climbing the loyalty program ladder.
So this was the actual problem the hotel faced: how could they engender true loyalty in their customers? Unlike the unlimited expiration date on loyalty we have in close relationships with friends or family, the hotel’s loyalty program only ran for 12 months. After that, customers were pushed back to square one – a policy unlikely to inspire loyalty.
Fahrenheit solved this problem by giving the loyalty program a lifetime guarantee. When customers reached the maximum amount of loyalty points, the hotel wouldn’t withdraw them at the end of the year. In this way, the hotel’s loyalty program was like an actual relationship between close friends – enduring and reciprocal.
By identifying the underlying cause of the surface-level issue, they were able attack the problem at the root and make innovation really happen.
Creating innovative solutions is all about approaching problems from two sides – the consumer side and the business side. If one of them is left out, it’s very likely that the solution will be neither good nor lasting.
Check out my related post: Are you bored at work?