Upside Down Ideas - Testing the Counter-intuitive
Seeing your concept in a different way reveals if something is missing. Upside down ideas can also unlock new approaches that disrupt entire industries.
It is frustrating when you think you have everything just right and still it doesn't work. You have a beautiful website, the logo is eye-catching, you've labored over it with a great deal of energy and still no one responds. It is like when, as a kid, you had a toy that stopped working. You change the batteries out and flip the switch on and off, but it doesn't work. The toy may be dead. That is sad. Once in a while, you can find one little thing that is off. You can unscrew the back panel and spot a wire that fell off. It is a great feeling when you find that little thing that brings your thing back to life! If you've checked and rechecked your work and it still isn't taking off, let's look at it from anther angle, flip it over figurative or literally. Maybe seeing your thing in another perspective will reveal what is missing or a novel approach that disrupts an entire industry.
If the relationships are correct, things often work regardless of position or configuration. There more than one way to skin a cat. This old idiom is loaded with truth and should be a mantra of anyone who finds themselves getting stuck. In creative efforts or the corporate office place, there is no one right answer. Think about the fun sci-fi depictions of alternate universes. Two examples are Fringe and The Man in the High Castle. The world is much the same as ours, but there are little differences. Cars may look different, systems of style, government or commerce may be altered from our norm. Even upside down ideas can still function normally and the inverted orientation may offer an advantage!
As a kid, I remember being horrified to see an older teenager eat a hamburger upside down. He turned it over in his hands. The crown went down, the heel went up! I couldn't believe it. Why would someone eat their hamburger wrong? That's where my head was from elementary to middle-school. Later, after observing a larger world, with experience trying things and failing, by being lucky, I have discovered in most cases there are many solutions or answers to life's questions. Since those days, I have seen video clips demonstrating the construction of a hamburger. The cheese goes in one layer, lettuce and tomato are on the opposite side. ketchup mustard and pickle go right above the patty. The relationships were in the right order and it didn't matter if it was inverted. The "correct" adjacent materials remained in contact. Moving forward with this information gave me the freedom to flip my burger if it helped it to hold together. Sometimes that heel bun gets mushed down and the crown can offer much needed support.
If you're stuck, try flipping the concept over
Upside down ideas can unlock undiscovered market advantages. It is a pretty famous story by now, but despite the fact that it costs a company a lot of money to take a new hire through the hiring and on-boarding process, Zappos actually offers these new hires a cash bonus to leave. How can that make sense? In the counter-intuitive move, Zappos retains only the employees who have a strong desire to work there. They have a love and heart for the company's values and style that outweighs the temptation of the bonus. This practice filters quality candidates who may not be joining for the long-term. Everyone who stays has made a statement that being there is worth more than the cash offer. The story goes beyond that both for change management practices offering a generous severance for employees who didn't not wish to work in the new manager-free culture. Amazon, Zappo's parent company, is also using similar strategies like this for their warehouse staff.
The first time I heard the offer for Netflix, it didn't make sense. For me, as a tight-wad, it still doesn't. But the idea of a subscription model for movie rentals really caught on. Then later they pivoted away from that toward the on-demand programming concept. In a way this is also like Apple's view of iTunes. Customers don't actually own copies of the media. They are renting the digital files long-term. Growing up, the malls had music stores that would sell you physical records, cassette tapes and CDs of the music. You didn't own rights to play the music for profit, but you did own the physical copy. Now we use digital files of media that we hold at the pleasure of the hosting companies. We do not own it permanently. For years I've told people to stop buying iTunes cards for kids when they could give them Amazon cards. Why? Because with Amazon you actually get the .mp3 file to save to a disc. But either way, do we really own any object even a non-physical digital file forever? If you've ever had the task of cleaning out a deceased family member's house, the things that we buy are not valued as much once the owner is gone.
The difference between paying and being paid
I'm working as a creative business coach for a special project. In this early stage I'm exploring the idea and asking, "who pays?" The Internet was cool when it first came on our radar. Everything was FREE! Napster, AudioGalaxy... later followed by open source software... Google... Facebook... wikipedia. How could such great companies continue to exist and even grow? Then someone realized, if it doesn't cost you anything, you're the product! Interesting.
What are you selling? What do you have to sell? Who should pay and who should be paid? In both the movie City Slickers and the opening monologue of the character Ishmael in Moby Dick, there is a big difference in paying and being paid. In the movie City Slickers, the guests pay money to go on a wild adventure working hard on a ranch. But Ishmael notes the difference between taking a cruise or being a hand on a ship. You still get to be on the boat and take the trip. I've often admired people who can get paid to work at beautiful resorts or on a cruise ship. G. Gordon Liddy held prison guards in low esteem asking why a person would sentence themselves to a 20 year career in prison.
Even if it just opens your mind to seeing things in different ways. You can earn credibility with your audience by sharing your failures and weaknesses. The idea of failing forward can help you and your audience. Most people recoil at the idea of sharing negative things with their friends and colleagues. But the act of sharing it, in the context of describing lessons learned can turn a failure into a powerful lesson.
> > In the comments below, share a story of when an idea got turned on its head and worked better. Or, if you don't have one, let us know what your blockage is. Maybe upside down ideas will work better than the way you've been looking at them!
Photo credit: Flying upside down - CC 2.0