Walt Disney once said, “I believe in being an innovator.” And you know what? So do I! Innovation is the classic strategy for being successful in business. Typically you find what frustrates you, then you set out to fix it. By all means, do that! But there is another way to bring about innovation: by watching other people break the rules.
Breaking More Than Rules
When you see people breaking the rules, try to capitalize on an innovative idea as a result. In fact, this is in part how the Life is Good company found their super-selling brand. (You know, the one featuring Jake the smiley face in all sorts of scenarios, with the optimistic slogan.) When their college friends liked the smiley face design, they scraped up enough money to buy 48 t-shirts featuring the face and the “Life is Good” slogan.
Once they set up their table at the street fair, they not only sold all 48 shirts, but someone even tried to steal one. Not being successful at breaking the rule and stealing the shirt, the kid came back and purchased it, a clear sign that they had found a winner. And, boy were they right, because they decided to focus all their efforts on that logo and slogan, and they went on to become an over-$100-million company.
Be a Rule Sleuth
So if you want to use innovation to be an entrepreneur, look around you. What rules do you see people breaking? Create an invention or deliver a product that satisfies that need. Here is one that I just noticed, and I give this concept freely for you to bring to the market:
It is a typically cold winter where I am, and I notice adults constantly wiping their noses on their sleeve or jacket cuff. Isn’t that exactly what we taught our kids not to do? Isn’t that a rule that is being broken?
So why don’t you seize the opportunity to invent a sleeve tissue wrap, a strap-on cuff nose-drip catcher or something. Seriously, people would buy it like crazy, it’s a solution that allows them to do want they want. It allows them to break the rules. Gosh. Mom would be so upset!
A good example of this concept is the crazy little license-plate spray. The product, which contains a special chemical concoction, is sprayed onto a license plate, where it prevents cameras from picking up the image. It essentially blocks all these new traffic cameras from taking a picture of your plate. People were breaking the rules by running red lights, and someone capitalized on that idea. (Or maybe it was the creator who was breaking the rules. Who knows?) The spray provides a way for people to break the rules and run the light.
As you consider the rules that people are breaking, try to find a solution you can sell, and don’t discount any ideas right off. Sometimes, the crazier the product, or the stranger the solution, the bigger seller it will be. Even though it might not technically be breaking a rule, today you can even get sunflower seeds that have caffeine added in. And people buy them! It breaks nature’s rule for sure.
People break the rules around us all the time. Heck, we even do it ourselves. But if you start to look at these rule-breakings in terms of solutions you can provide, you may just find yourself with a lucrative product to sell to all the rule breakers. If you can do that, you may be the next Life is Good!
Mike Michalowicz is the Author of the business cult-classic, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneurand is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Michalowicz has built three multi-million dollar companies, is a frequent expert guest on MSNBC, CNBC, ABC and other television networks, and is a nationally renowned speaker. His website is www.ToiletPaperEntrepreneur.com and his book is available at Amazon.com and all major book stores.