Ideas Alone Don’t Make Meaning

“The guy who invented the first wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented the other three, he was a genius.”

–       Sid Caesar


Having an idea is great.  I hope you have many ideas.  May they be brilliant.  May they be lame.  It doesn’t matter, as long as you have them.


Just remember, having an idea is never enough.  It’s just Step 1. Step2 is doing something with it.  But that isn’t enough either.  Why keep it to yourself?


That’s why we have Step 3.  Share it. Show people what they could do with it, and how it could make their lives better.


Some people think that having a good business idea means inventing something new. A new product for example.  Others may hear the word ‘innovation’ and think it applies only to technology, so they rule themselves out.  That’s not the case at all.  Think about it.  Can you think of a product or contraption that people would want that hasn’t already been created?  I doubt it.  Most can’t, and besides, most small business ideas don’t scale during build out because they lack the enormous the resources required to put it together.  It takes a village – or at least a Steve Jobs.


Invention and innovation doesn’t always imply a new product.  It can be a new way of doing something – whether it’s a different way of using a product, or a different way of selling it. It takes creative thinking. It takes looking at what we’re doing from a different perspective  – namely our customers – and finding a way to deliver an experience that goes beyond the product and provides deeper meaning,


For example, if you lived in New York back in the 80’s, you could expect to see a laundromat on virtually every corner.  It came with the territory. One of those necessary evils you needed to put up with in a city filled with converted brownstones, apartment buildings and flats above mom and pop shops.  Most people didn’t have the luxury of owning their own washers and dryers, let alone the space to put them in.


Let’s face it.  Laundromats are just laundromats. Varying degrees of dingy. Rows of washers.  Rows of dryers.  A few were set aside to handle larger loads.  If you were lucky, besides the few chairs scattered around you’d have a vending machine.  Then one day a new laundromat opened. It was large, spacious and well-lit. The washers and dryers were set up around the perimeter of the place and in the center were café tables and chairs like you’d see in an old ice cream parlor. They even had a couple of stuffed arm chairs and a free coffee bar. If you wanted to, you could drop off your laundry and they would do it for you at a nominal fee, while you relaxed or even ran a few errands and came back.   It became a local rage. People actually enjoyed doing their laundry and catch up with friends over coffee at the same time.


Ice cream is ice cream, right?  Think about the impact Haagen Daz had on the ice cream business?


Food trucks are nothing new, but the gourmet food truck has been a rage for a few years now.


What effect did Starbucks have on both the coffee trade and the consumer?


These companies didn’t invent laundromats, ice cream, food trucks or coffee; but they found a way to turn the product experience into something special, and in some cases, even transformed their entire industries.


Ideas don’t become meaningful until you act on them.  What can you create that would delight your customers and get them talking about you?  How can you make doing business with you mean more?  What difference can you make?





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