It is a lot more fun, fulfilling and cost-effective to think your way out of a problem than throw money at it. Try to solve problems first before buying solutions. Take a really thorough, genuine crack at it before giving up and tossing cash away. Moreover, the effort behind solving a problem educates you around the situation and helps you appreciate a purchased solution more when you fail.
Inspiration comes from many different places. More often than not, it comes from your immediate surroundings or industry. You see or hear something cool that is not quite perfect and needs improvement. You think you can do better. You set off to tell a better story or build a better application. You compete for a variable solution to the same problem. Game changer? Maybe. Life changer? Probably not.
Through the omniscient connectivity of the internet, we all lead fairly informed lives. With all the information available, we tend to react more to what’s outside than what’s inside. Businesses react to the market. Individuals react to circumstances. Inspiration surfs on the wake of trends. What this creates is an iterative marketplace. People spend more time reacting to and interpolating other people’s ideas than reflecting on their own needs or experiences.
Big ideas come from small people facing big problems. We all qualify to tackle big problems if we close our ears and open our minds to draw inspiration from within. Solve large, important human problems – not just little day-to-day problems. Contest the market as-is; strive to create a market of your own. If you can identify immediate competition tackling the same problem, your idea isn’t big enough.
Redundant solutions are a waste of resources, time, and marketplace space. What do you have to gain by trying to do the same thing better than the next guy? The chances that you will make a competitive impression are few and far between. Why not try something different altogether? Identify a problem or need, list the solutions available now, and brainstorm opportunities divergent from (or completely counter-intuitive to) other trends. Sure, you may fail to solve the problem. But you may also outperform the next guy with your unique approach. You’ll never know unless you try.
Remember what Henry Ford said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Embrace different.
Perhaps education could spend more time teaching students about what not to do. We should impart to students a fundamental understanding of what has been done already, and inspire them to approach things differently.
Through a culture of experimentation and differentiation, we will solve more problems faster and with more certainty.