To invent new products, you need to know how to generate new ideas – lots of them. Then you look them over and pick out the good ones. Here is one of the many simple techniques for coming up with ideas for new products.
New Products From Old
Start with an existing product and extract some of the basic principles or attributes that define it. Then take those and apply them to other products, things or processes. That’s the whole technique, by the way. Now for some examples.
A laptop computer has many attributes, but the one that comes to my mind as most important is that it is portable. That is what makes them sell, right? So let’s start with the idea of “portable” and apply it to anything and everything around us.
As I write this, I can see my desk in front of me. The questions to ask then, are “Would a portable desk be useful or desired by people?” and “How could a portable desk be made?” The answer to the first question is clearly yes for me, since I would love one to take when we go camping in our van. Of course there are some fairly portable desks, so the second question should focus on new ways to make them even smaller.
I guess we would want to start with materials that are very strong and rigid for there weight, like aluminum or titanium. Maybe a small titanium desk top could fold into six parts and have telescoping legs. The whole thing might fit inside a briefcase-sized carrier and still fold out into a usable size. Or maybe, since the market might be laptop owners, we could just add telescoping legs to a laptop computer. Once you have a simple idea like this, you should jot it down and quickly move on to the next one.
Randomly searching my imagination for other products to apply the idea of “portable” to, I am thinking of a jukebox. To the best of my knowledge, there are no widely distributed portable jukeboxes. The question of usefulness is answered in the affirmative – just think what a great little money maker a portable jukebox could be. Take it to parties, set it up at fund raisers, maybe you could even rent it out. Now you just have to design one.
This technique isn’t limited to new products. Lets look at how to do this with a service. For our existing service, delivery comes to mind. It is the essence of many pizza restaurants and flower shops, for example. What can be delivered that isn’t typically being delivered now? Finding things to apply this to can be as simple as mentally listing everything that people go out to buy and considering whether there is some way to make a business delivering it.
People go out to buy plants, for example, because they want to see what they are buying. But what if a nursery had video cameras that could be operated by the customer to see everything in stock? The customer could scan the plants, note the numbers on them and place the order online or by phone for delivery that day or the next. “I’ll take number t-243 (t for tree) and eight cucumber plants.” Once a day a driver could run the rounds around the city making the deliveries.
You can also open the dictionary and start scanning pages to see what might be delivered. It took me less than a minute to scan six pages and see “pool.” Could a business rent and deliver swimming pools for parties and events? Maybe it’s already being done.
Just start with existing products or services and apply the existing principles and attributes in a new context. It’s one of the simplest ways to invent new products or services.