There’s something about Abe Lincoln

What is it about Abe Lincoln? He pops up everywhere and is referenced all the time. Think about it.  Not a day goes by where you don’t see honest Abe referenced somewhere, somehow.  Sure, on President’s Day and because of money.  But that just scratches the surface of our Abe obsession.  He pops pretty much every day in all kinds of expected and unexpected ways.  On billboards.  In quotes.  On TV.  In books.  Movies.  Parodies.  As a vampire hunter.  In costumes.  To settle bets.  A.k.a. he is the Elvis of ex-Presidents.  Honest Abe is one of 44 U.S. Presidents (albeit one of our very, very finest) and has been deceased for 148 years.  So why are there seemingly more Abe Lincoln references than those of all other non-sitting presidents put together? And what does this have to do with innovation, design, research, new product development and marketing?

Read on…

Blog 2-18-14 Something about Abe-1So what does this Abe phenomenon have to do with innovation, design, research, new products and marketing? It’s this.  All Abe, all-the-time is a real thing.  But it’s the kind of thing that most people would never consciously notice.  Most anybody can catch the obvious things.  You need someone…yourself, a leader, an employee, an agency person, a researcher, but someone…who is able to notice the offbeat things, the emerging, the next, the heretofore unseen wave that leads to big ideas.  And if you don’t have such a person, you should find one. Honest.

Want breakthrough innovation? Be very, very contrary

Don’t think innovation can be forced or pulled out of thin air? Au contraire.  Seriously.  Au contraire.  One simple and HIGHLY EFFECTIVE way to achieve innovation is to be very, very, very contrary.  How?

A GREAT innovation tool we’ve used over the years to achieve real results is called The Great “What If” Game.  Essentially, this brainstorming exercise forces you to look at your situation (product or service) in very contradictory ways by asking a series of “what if” questions.  For example, in looking at your situation, what if we:

  • Modernize it?
  • Make it bigger? Make it smaller? Change its shape?
  • Substitute in something new or unexpected?
  • Make it more hip/cool?
  • Beautify it?
  • Simplify it?
  • Make it thicker?
  • Make it lighter?
  • Make it sexier?
  • Make it more fun?
  • Make it more powerful or potent?
  • Combine it with something improbable?
  • Make it healthier?
  • Make it more indulgent?
  • Make it more personal?
  • Make it more upscale?
  • Etc., etc.

You get the idea.  We challenge you to dream up your own large number of “what if” questions for your product or service. Then, see where it takes you.

Skeptical and don’t think this can really work? Au contraire – here is just a smattering of real world examples of where it has worked (by creating juxtaposition vs. the status quo):

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The moral of the story? Use the Great “What If” Game to zig where others zag, go up to their down, be yin to their yang.  And watch what happens.

Let’s brainstorm! Have any favorite techniques you use to think contrarian or get outside the box? Please share them over here in the comments.

Triumph of Taste

The subject of aesthetics is one of changing paradigms and endless intrigue. In objects, just as with subjects, the meaning of “beautiful” has evolved continuously with time. But one decision spares debate: given two products which only differ in aesthetics, the one we consider more beautiful will always grab more attention and will remain.

The late Steve Jobs is known to have been very keen on “taste.” Microsoft has absolutely no taste, he said, going on to explain that by this he meant that “they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their product.” Great products, he said, were a “triumph of taste.” The exquisite taste of Jobs himself has long been a matter of doctrine in the tech world. Kevin Kelly’s remarks after his death expressed the general sentiment: “Steve Jobs was a CEO of beauty. In his interviews and especially in private, Jobs often spoke about Art. Taste. Soul. Life. And he sincerely meant it, as evidenced by the tasteful, soulful products he created over 30 years.”

Consciously or subconsciously, our decision regarding aesthetics always factors in cost as an important role in our decisions. When it comes to both the buying and the making of a product, we are sometimes faced with the decision of whether to sacrifice aesthetics for cost. But in a market driven by visual impact, first glance and short attention spans, can a product be quite as market competitive without drawing attention based on aesthetics?

In other words, if you don’t “have consumers at hello” by making a visual statement, can you truly rise above the competition?  Before you consciously shave costs by skimping on aesthetics, ask yourself if you can really afford NOT to work towards a triumph of taste.

If a single product can redefine a market, shape social behavior, and go as far as influence society as a whole, it becomes increasingly important for products to be designed well in every way. In an age of fast making, over-production and obsolescence, all objects should be designed carefully and beautifully in order to be good. Doing good won’t cost as much as you think…and its results will likely far outstrip the up front investment.