Brilliantly new idea – No one has thought

I wish it was true to have a ‘Brilliantly New Idea’ that no one has thought. I was asked recently whether one needs a ‘brilliantly new idea’ to start a successful business. Tough question to answer. This is for 2 reasons – novelty is scarce, brilliance is contextual.

Idea

I clearly remember when I was starting my own sports and fitness startup, I and my partner thought that we had a brilliant idea that no one else had thought about.

Within 2 months of starting, we realized that there were 3 other serious players in the market who were doing the same thing as ours. Did that mean our idea was not brilliant? If we speak to people who were not familiar with the competition, it was brilliant. However, for customers of the customers, it was a routine thing.

Similarly,

  • iPod, the revolutionary product that led to iPhone was not the first music player in the world.
  • Google was not the first search engine in the world
  • Reliance Jio was not the first Mobile operator in India
  • McDonald’s was not the first (and not the best) burger maker in the world
  • Arvind Mills was not the first automatic textile manufacturer in the world
  • And the list goes on…

So does the problem really lies with brilliance?

Same idea may be brilliant for some and mundane for others and vice versa.

Elon Musk, the idea and brilliance powerhouse of the world, is thinking about solving world’s transportation problems with EVs and the Boring Company; and also of the Universe with SpaceX.

For ISRO engineers, the problem that SpaceX is trying to solve is everyday job. Does that mean Elon Musk is not brilliant?

Similarly, people who embraced digital payments early were merely early adopters. When digitization via demonetization happened in India, the man on the street became a customer of the digital payments. Does it mean that early adopters are more brilliant than the man on the street?

The answer to both is No.

Further, when Flipkart started in India, it was not a brilliant idea. India already had IndiaPlaza.com. World already had Amazon.com. Flipkart copied over Amazon.com.

Amazon.com was (and is) brilliant in identifying the opportunity of product sales using the internet.

Now if Flipkart starts its operations in US, would it be a brilliant idea there? Certainly not. Unless, Flipkart addresses some of the gaps in the offering of Amazon.com in the US. Obviously it requires a lot of research and identifying the right gaps. Then making the right solutions to fill those gaps and then communicating to the customers about this value differentiated offering.

So brilliance has to sit in the context right. Any idea has to be brilliant if it is serving a need contextually.

The question then arises of one needs to do something successfully and at scale – whether a new project that is done for commercial purposes or to start a new business.

The two important things that one needs to look at then are below –

  • Scale of problem – One needs to spend time to identify the problem. Then the research should be to understand the ‘scale of the problem’. The bigger the scale of the problem that one is trying to solve. The greater is going to be the impact of the solution. The bigger the impact of the solution, the more the opportunities of making money/ reaping benefits.

 

  • Comprehensive research – This is one of the most ignored part by most young managers and entrepreneurs. Research may help you to find answers to some of the questions that you may have like below –
    • What is the current solution for the problem?
    • How many players are there?
    • Are there any gaps in the offering?
    • Can a marriage of technology with the field of interest make any impact?
    • Do I or my team have the skills to solve this problem?

A comprehensive approach to a given problem shall help to solve the most impending problems.

So instead of ‘Brilliantly New Idea’, one must focus on ‘Scale of the problem’.

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