"I want to stay as close on the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center. ... Big, undreamed-of things — the people on the edge see them first."-Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano
This rallying cry proves that, in the right hands, the first blush of a successful idea can become something greater. What is at first perceived as madness can become mainstream innovation.
Finding the Magic in Everyday Places: A Monthly Recap from the Cutting-Edge
The influence of innovative thinking is all around us. The five concepts outlined below are perfect examples:
1. Playtend Mobile App Company
Mashable.com estimates that nearly 30 million people access apps on their phone on a regular basis. How does one company stand out in the market? By offering an innovative solution no one else has thought of. That's exactly what Christopher Taylor, co-founder of Playtend did.
The company was inspired by his daughter. Just when mobile apps were becoming popular, he realized there was a void in the market: there were no child-appropriate apps available, so he decided to create them. Of course, it wasn't that simple.
Initially, he had two goals:
1. Convince his best friend (now, co-founder of the company) he wasn't crazy.
2. Show proof of concept
Careful cultivation and perseverance have paid off. As of October, Playtend offers 77 apps for children of all ages, has millions of users, and has been regularly featured on the front page of the Apple App Store; just to name a few accomplishments.
Takeaway: He wants others to join the movement. His interview with Radical Tribes outlines a step-by-step business model and he encourages innovative entrepreneurs to start their own company.
2. 3-D printing hits prime time television. Last year the Huffington Post asked an intriguing question: will 3-D printing change the world? It's almost a year to the day and it looks like we have our answer.
3-D printing has changed the world; the fashion world, that is. Designer Justin LeBlanc used a Dimension Printer to create accessories for his collection featured on the Project Runway October finale.
Takeaway: This innovative use of industrial technology proves that it can go beyond the bounds of its original intention. When it comes to applications, the sky’s the limit. Push that limit and watch what happens.
3. Emmy-winning brand redefinition. Fresh off award-winning recognition; Netflix kept the momentum going this month by officially surpassing HBO in domestic subscribers. The secret behind the company’s success? An attractive re-branding strategy.
Streaming content breathed new life into the struggling online DVD rental company, but it wasn't enough to differentiate them from the competition. Not going down without a fight; Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, decided to borrow a strategy from the content marketing handbook and invest in high-quality, original content. The result: 10 million new subscribers and $32 million in profits.
Takeaway: Innovation can be as simple as figuring out how to repurpose a pre-existing niche and investing in new strategies.
4. Boy wonder creates a test strip for cancer. Jack Andraka has already won a prestigious science award, but he could probably snag the award for most innovative teenager while he’s at it.
When the 16-year-old originally proposed he could develop a test for pancreatic cancer, 199 science labs rejected his request for lab space, but the 200th lab said yes, and one yes is all he needed. As of this month, his test is ready for the first stage of trials through a pharmaceutical company.
Takeaway: Innovation requires a healthy dose of confidence, creativity, and persistence.
5. Waterless toilets could cause a micro-planning revolution. The Gates Foundation has been working on the waterless toilet for over a year. Developers hope to have it ready for use in India by 2014. The goal is to improve both immediate sanitation and health conditions as well as long-term town planning in crowded cities like Mumbai.
Takeaway: For innovation to be sustainable, it must have well-developed goals that are both immediate and long-term.
This recap proves that the seeds of the "next big thing" start with recognizing and embracing opportunities in everyday places.