Pay attention to disproportion in the world. Notice things that have a remarkably imbalanced relationship with each other. Because in the delicate space between, there is a powerful source of energy and tension. Which, if channeled and scaled properly, can positively impact the world. In fact, that's the pattern you notice when studying the history of innovation. It all starts with some instance where a person was either anxiously pulling out their hair or joyfully doing backflips about something that was seemingly mundane at the time. But as the old adage goes, the more personal the problem, the more universal its application.
DISPROPORTIONING — Scaling one person's excessive moment of emotion and bring it to the world
Land, the chemist who made a name for himself developing polarizing filters for sunglasses, once took his five year old daughter on vacation. After snapping a photo of the beautiful desert landscape, she asked him, daddy, why can't we see the pictures now? What parent can't relate to that childlike bewilderment? Imagine the superpower you would have back in the forties if your family pictures could be viewed that quickly? Land, at the time, already had a good working knowledge of photography and chemistry. And as the legend goes, after his daughter asked that question, he spent the rest of the day conceiving of a system that would enable instant picture exposure. Polaroid was born shortly thereafter, and that instant camera changed the picture taking habits of millions of people around the world. Land's company ultimately launched a billion dollar line of over five hundred innovative photographic patents over the next four decades. Daddy, why can't we see the pictures now? That question changed the world. One little girl's excessive moment of impatience tangibly embodied into a product that made a significant intellectual contribution.
Land's biography is a must read. Polaroid's inception and growth is a remarkable story that has inspired me for years. My favorite line from the book is when the innovator commented that he never cared about beating the competition. Why would you commit your production resources to someone else's business? More people should heed his advice, and perhaps a better product picture would develop.
If you want to pull on the lever of innovation, pay attention to snapshots of disproportion in the world. Let that be the guiding light that instantly exposes your next opportunity. What powerful source of energy and tension is just waiting to be channeled?
Expand your brain’s ability to spot product opportunities
Uncover universal solutions through personal problems
Gain a powerful source of creative energy by channeling emotional tension
Make a significant intellectual contribution to the world through your ideas