Last year I saw a comment from a respected entrepreneur who was claiming “all the big ideas have already been created.” I was highly disappointed, because it’s reeks of pre-1492 attitudes about the Earth. You can’t argue what the next big idea will be until it’s created. All I can argue is that every time people have claimed such a truth, it’s been proven wrong.
But forget the big ideas – there are so many ideas left all around us. Here’s one. How could you possible recreate the ketchup packet? It’s just a foil wrapper around a single serving of ketchup. I was sure it couldn’t be improved.
Until I saw this ketchup packet.
It’s very clever. You can open and squeeze with less mess than a traditional ketchup packet, or pull-back the lid and dip your french fries directly in the packet. Brilliant.
Whoever came up with it isn’t going down in the record books next to Edison. But it’s the biggest leap forward in that particular product in 40 years.
There is so much innovation left in the world, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. Some of it requires new scientific understanding. Some of it requires extending the natural progression of the current science. Some of it just requires re-purposing or tweaking existing ideas.
Just for practice, look at things that haven’t changed since your childhood (if you’re over 30, use someone’s else’s childhood if you’re under 30). Why hasn’t it changed? What could be done differently? What problems does the current design still cause for people? Consider the folding card table, bed sheets, the pop-up toaster, or the clothes hanger. I don’t know what’s better than what we have today, but just like the ketchup packet, just because we don’t know what it is yet, doesn’t mean it’s not out there.
Jamie Flinchbaugh is co-founder of the Lean Learning Center, and co-author of the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean: Lessons from the Road. You can find his blog at www.JamieFlinchbaugh.com.