Ouyee, store display furniture manufacturer since 1998, original shop interior design & shop fixtures manufacturing factory

Invention's Stepmother: How the Search for an

by:OUYEE     2020-08-09
Anyone in either sales or marketing has had days where if they felt like if they heard 'new and improved' just one more time, their head would just explode. It's a common phrase, perhaps too common. The two words are generally used together, as if something new was required to also be 'improved' as well. Culturally, we're inundated with the idea that old is bad, new is better, and 'new and improved' is best. In many cases, this may be true, but there is also a new trend toward recycling and re-purposing that may well have a place in business thinking, as well.
This is not to say that new things aren't great. The last thirty years have seen new developments that have literally changed how we work, play, read, even how we think. New technology has impacted every area of our lives. The Internet. Power locks on car doors. First desktop computers, then laptops, and now tablets. Party-line home phones have given way to handheld smart phones. The list is nearly endless, and varied.
Innovation has become the norm, rather than something unusual. People wait in line for days for the latest smart phone release from their favorite manufacturer, rather than waiting to hear how the model performs and then think about getting one. A new release of a video game is a media event. 'Early adopters' have become a significant target segment of all markets, to the point where the title is a misnomer. They're not 'early adopters' anymore; they're just consumers.
So amidst all this innovation, what use can there be in lateral thinking? Like things that aren't 'new and improved,' lateral thinking has gotten a bit of a bad rep. Lateral moves in jobs aren't as great as promotions or new positions. Lateral growth doesn't sound as exciting as 'expansion.' And yet, there is power in lateral thinking, and it can lead to growth, and development, and positive change.
A simple example: recently, a friend, one of those 'early adopter' types who happens to work in retail, told me a story that illustrates the power of lateral thinking. My friend recently got the latest iPad, and was trying to show a co-worker one of the nifty new apps he'd downloaded. He looked at the counter, which happens to use iPads for advertising displays, but the tablets were all bolted into the stands, and the stands to the counter, for security. Smart idea, but no good to him at that moment. A floor standing model was also within reach, with the store directory displayed, but this one was locked to the stand with a cable lock. No go there, either. As my friend looked around, his co-worker - an absolute Luddite who probably couldn't tell an iPad from an iPod under torture - reached over to a paperback book displayed on a small easel, removed the book, and shoved the easel across the counter at my friend.
'Use this,' said Luddite co-worker, blissfully unaware of the magnitude of their action.
My friend set his superbly up-to-the-minute gadget in the old-school holder, and voila, it worked like a charm. He went online that night and bought twelve of the little stands, just to have one handy when he needed it.
The point of all this? Lateral thinking. The product in question, a small metal folding easel that's been coated with rubber for protection, has been around for a very, very long time. People display books on them. Other people display decorative plates on them. They've been used to hold sheet music, notepads, directions, signs, you name it. Apparently they work like a charm with iPads. And unlike some tablet holders, they work with just about every model that's out there, as long as they're less than an inch thick. Genius. You'd think the little easel had been invented just for this, that it was a 'new and improved' model of a tablet stand.
But it's not 'new and improved,' not at all. It's exactly the same as it was two minutes before someone thought of a new use for it, which is to say it's exactly as wonderful and useful now as it was then. Lateral thinking created not a new product, but an entirely new use for an existing product, thereby creating growth, and development, and positive change. Without changing a thing, except in how something was perceived. Genius? Well, yes, actually, that kind of thinking can be.
In our never-ending quest for the new, the improved, the better, and the 'does more than' in life, it can be worth it to stop now and then and look at the things around us. This goes for home, the office, everywhere. Try to think laterally about the things that surround you, the products you sell, the things you do, wear, eat or use. Are you doing as much as you can with them? Can the old be looked at not as something to be replaced by the 'new and improved' but rather as something that can enhance and add to it? Or that the 'new and improved' can enhance?
In recent years, the trend toward multi-tasking has started to slowly reverse. Where once it was the goal to do as many things as possible all at the same time, studies and research are now leaning toward supporting the idea that focusing on one or two things at once is more productive. Not everything has to do everything. Simplification, like lateral thinking, has its place in business. Sometimes it's better to choose the things that you need, and not the things that do everything you may never need them to. When applied wisely, which is to say to things and situation where it makes sense, simplification can result in cost savings and savings in stress, as well.
Let's look at that iPad holder one last time as an example. The store in question had several different models for counter and floor displays. They locked. They provided easy access and security all at once. They were pretty much perfect at doing what they do. And yet, for my friend's purpose, they had a few too many bells and whistles. A more simple version sufficed, and actually made things easier. Sometimes simplification is part of the answer, and sometimes it may be the entire answer. My friend hangs out at a wireless coffee shop sometimes - he uses his new favorite easel-style iPad stand there. But he also uses his tablet at work, where he has a different, locking case for it, to make sure it doesn't wander off by accident. Would the locking version work at the coffee shop? Sure, but he likes the convenience of the other. Simplification is an oft-overlooked positive that can get lost in the shuffle of the 'new and improved' versions.
In business, and in life, it is sometimes a very good thing to stop for a moment and think. Growth, and development, and positive change are not always results of something 'new and improved.' Sometimes the only thing that needs to be new, or improved, is how you look at what you already have.

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