Step 2 Stretch Your Idea

Latex, the main constituent of rubber, had been known to the South American Mayan Indians since 1600 B.C. It was naturally sticky in summer and brittle in winter. No one knew quite what to do with the stuff. Then in 1839 Charles Goodyear accidentally spilled some sulphur into a vat and averaged the attributes. With a second stroke of luck he found that heat was the missing ingredient and vulcanized rubber was born.

New ideas not only need to be cultivated, but exercised as well. Having half an idea is less than half the battle. Whether your bottle is half full or half empty, customers will only buy a full one. You have to find the key extra ingredient to fill it up and turn your idea into a complete winner. So stretch your idea, tease it this way and that, chop out elements, turn it on its head, try it as expensive, try it as cheap. And remember McDonalds.

The humble hamburger had been served by German immigrants in North America for well over a century before Maurice and Richard McDonald (in 1948) began to give the recipe thought. Here's what they came up with:

♦ Persuade customers to eat standing up.

♦ Severely restrict menus.

♦ Fire specialist chefs.

♦ Develop cooking machinery that any employee can operate.

None of these ideas were winners in and of themselves. Yet together they built a worldwide, fast-food industry.

Even operating systems were nothing new when IBM commissioned Bill Gates to write the Disk Operating System (DOS) in 1980.

DOS was designed to be ported to other computers easily (remember there were many different types at the time and it took years before the IBM PC became the standard it is today). This appealed to the manufacturers, as it allowed them all to start from the same playing field. Bill didn't know who would be the eventual winner, but he knew that if he backed them all he couldn't lose.

Most new ideas are not entirely new. They are old ones with a twist. When the Gates, Goodyears, and McDonalds of this world are asked how they came across their ideas, they typically say, '"It was just under my nose."

Note The thought that turns a leaden idea into gold is often surprisingly close at hand. So scrabble, search, and twist.

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