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Be An Innovator: Here’s How

We are a nation of conformists.

Something gets invented (the smart phone, the microwave oven, the seatbelt, the calculator, Velcro) and we behave like we have reached the pinnacle of possibilities with that invention. And we settle. We conform. We become complacent.

Here’s a thought: You – yes you – can be an innovator. You may think you are not smart enough or don’t have the same resources as Elon Musk, but there’s no need to sell yourself short. I am inviting you to embrace the following ideas so that you become an innovator and make your mark on this world. This is not a “rah-rah” motivational pitch that is meant to psyche you up and then leave you hanging. You really can become a first-rate innovator. And the first step is to believe what I am saying, and to tell yourself that you are an innovator. Think of yourself as an innovator. Believe that you are an innovator from this day forward, even if you have to do so as a leap of faith.

Is there a tangible product you’d like to innovate into something newer and better? If so, take a cue from the innovators who make Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Reese’s is a division of the Hershey company. While Reese’s flagship product is the standard (and devilishly delicious) peanut butter cup that comes in the bright orange wrapper containing two of those cups, think of all of the various spin-off products that original product spawned.

Someone thought about replacing the milk chocolate with dark chocolate, and voila! A new product was born. And someone else thought of replacing both types of chocolate with white chocolate. Now they had 3 products. But they didn’t stop there. They decided to manipulate the size of the product, both larger and smaller, so they came up with what they call Big Cup and Minis. Someone made them skinnier and called them Thins. They decided to try to mirror the Kit Kat bar and came up with Reese’s Sticks. Then someone decided to make the product look like the popular M&M’s, which became Reese’s Pieces. From there, they went from a cup to a more traditional candy bar, and came up with several new products, such as Nutrageous, Fast Break, and Crispy Crunchy. They started looking at seasonable products to match certain holidays, and came up with new products for Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Christmas. They branched out into snacks and the result was a whole host new products, including Dipped Pretzels. They co-branded products with other companies and ended up with ice cream, cereal, cookies, cake mix, and other products. And I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Think for a moment about the basic principles involved in the altering of the various Reese’s products.

  • They changed the basic ingredients, from their usual milk chocolate to other types of chocolate.
  • They changed the shape.
  • They changed the size.
  • They mirrored other products.
  • They thought about holidays.
  • They thought about synergizing with other non-competitive companies.

Consider those practices when tinkering with an existing product.

There is much more I could say about Innovation, and I will in future issues of Uncommon Sense.

Ara Norwood is a multi-faceted and results-oriented professional. Spanning a multiplicity of disciplines including leadership, management, innovation, strategy, service, sales, business ethics, and entrepreneurship. Ara is also a historian, having special expertise on the era of the founding of our republic.
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