How an idea, a turkey, a pump, made sales bounce
I read a great article on Technology
Review.com recently, about Spaldings sporting-goods division:
Idea with Bounce" by Jeremy B. Dann. He tells the story
of how an employee, Dan Touhey got the idea for "putting a miniaturized
pump that would reside inside the ball when not in use."
" Consumers are rarely able to verbalize what their real needs and problems
are, says Touhey. When a moderator in a focus group asked about problems people
had with basketballs, the number one answer was probably grip. But once the
conversation was steered toward inflation, every hand would shoot up. Everyone
had a story." Spalding managers had been aware of inflation frustration
for years, but little had been done to address the problem. With three kids,
I can identify with the inflation problem. There’s nothing more frustrating
than going out to shoot some hoops with the kids and finding the ball has deflated
over the winter months.
"The idea that changed how Spalding approached inflation hassles occurred
on Thanksgiving Day, in 1998. As Touhey watched his father get ready to carve
the family turkey, the birds plastic pop-up thermometer gave him the idea for
a miniaturized pump that would reside inside the ball when not in use."
Even with a great idea... "Touhey knew that getting the company to invest
in his micro pump idea was a long shot. "There was a cultural fear of taking
a big leap of becoming involved in a blue-sky project that didn't have a well-defined
endgame," says Touhey."
...Touhey got lucky. I wonder how many organizations operate in a culture of
fear and make creativity and innovation almost impossible? Good thing he and
the marketing exec were both new to the business.
From my perspective, I see things starting to happen that most businesses are
not prepared to deal with unless they find some way to get beyond this “culture
of fear”. People are smarter than ever before; this does not mean those
smarts are being put to good use. Boomers are leaving the workforce, causing
a brain-drain. The Net is providing new and better ways for people to communicate.
The whole idea of transparency that is getting played out over the net via blogs,
chat, forums, et al, even SOX is going to accelerate and most corporations cannot
get their head around it fast enough. You have China entering new markets, private
equity funds looking for new businesses, lame managers, and shorter cycle times.
What’s more, traditional media, TV, print, radio, is becoming obsolete
for reaching certain market segments; most young people don’t even know
that your business exist unless you have a deep-web presence.
What’s next? Organizations need to get over the culture of fear and start
adopting something along the lines of the "Five
Key Strategies for Making Open Innovation Work for You"
by Mike Docherty and Luda Kopeikina to survive. Businesses need better tools
to find stories and ideas from inside and outside the business to engage and
energize people to help the business grow.