Last week Fast Company published an article about Jeff Weber finding opportunity in the $320 million dollar market of crutches. Weber is one of the designers responsible for some of the renowned ergonomic Herman Miller Chairs. So what is he doing in the medical care market? When he found himself with a leg injury and uncomfortable on crutches that were invented in the 1930’s, he decided that it was time for the crutch to get a facelift. If you have ever been on crutches, you know what I am talking about-aside from the fact you will have bulging biceps post-crutch, being on crutches is just awkward and painful. Thankfully, Weber has changed that experience. His years of practice in ergo- design enabled him to invent an ergonomic crutch now called Mobilegs.
Another inventor that leveraged a not so great experience into an opportunity is James Dyson, who invented the Dyson Airblade, which is a stark improvement on hand dryers. Certain hand dryers are almost as effective wiping your hands on your pant legs or on tissue. There is nothing like having cold air blown onto your cold and wet hands. Now, I am almost giddy when I walk into a bathroom and find there is a Dyson Airblade-I could wash my hands ten times over just so I can feel the air making the swooshing noise on my skin.
The Airblade design was based on Dyson’s digital motor, which powers some of Dyson’s popular vacuum cleaners. According to Dyson’s website, Dyson digital motor spins 88,000 times a minute – five times faster than a Formula One car engine. Using one of these will make one feel childlike and beyond that, it works extremely well. Who would have ever thought someone in the vacuum business would get into business of personal hygiene?
Next time you have brainstorm session, instead of thinking about product extensions and your industry, think bigger. Think about what your company is good at and list out things you encounter on a daily basis that may need improvement. Who knows, you may find yourself enjoying success in an entirely different industry.