Seth Godin writes one of the most consistently insightful blogs on marketing and the way ideas spread. I am continually impressed by his ability to take my thinking in new directions. An excerpt from his book, "Free Prize Inside" was published on Fast Company’s website.
In it, he describes a process called "EdgeCraft", a method of overcoming brainstorming sessions which yield little. The process involves taking your product through small innovations to the edges of what exists out in the marketplace.
The free prize is the element that transcends the utility of the
original idea and adds a special, unique element worthy of more money
The way to find these ideas is what I call "edgecraft." It is a
methodical, measurable process that allows individuals and teams to
identify inexorably the soft innovations that live on the edges. It can
be done quickly or over long periods of time. And you can even do it by
yourself (I do my edgecraft in the shower. It has the added benefit of
dramatically increasing personal hygiene).
Edgecraft is a straightforward process:
- Find an edge–a free prize that has been shown to make a product or service (in someone else’s industry) remarkable.
- Go all the way to that edge–as far from the center as the consumers you are trying to reach dare you to go.
Moving a little is expensive and useless. Moving a lot is actually
cheaper in the long run and loaded with wonderful possibilities. It’s
easy (but pointless) to open your store another 30 minutes a day. It’s
more difficult (but possibly a fantastic strategy) to open your store
24 hours a day. Little changes cost you. Big changes benefit you by
changing the game, but only if you go first.
Brainstorming might create the occasional breakthrough, but
edgecraft can inexpensively and quickly churn out lots of ideas–good
ideas and sometimes great ideas. Ideas you can rapidly implement. If
people aren’t blown away, they won’t talk about it. If they don’t talk
about it, then it doesn’t spread fast enough to help you grow.
There are hundreds of available edges–things you can add to,
subtract from, or do to your product or service.
I found this approach to be a wonderful break from the traditional product development step of "brainstorming" ideas. Typically, analyses of possible product features consist of small feature developments in different directions. This is very common with an inventor or small company building a business off of one product, as they want their ‘product benefits’ list to be as long as possible. I’ve witnessed companies try to add features to their products with the hope that the product will serve a different, useful purpose after it breaks. While this is interesting from a recycling perspective, if it’s not the top one or two selling points of your product, it will probably only serve to detract from the top selling points. Why not make a more lasting impression by taking the top 1 or 2 selling points all the way to edge with the hopes of giving people something that truly stands out?