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Unlikely Pairings

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Image: Bob RosnerI was reading the newspaper yesterday and I came across two words that just didn’t go together. They weren’t exactly an oxymoron, just moronic. At least that’s how they struck me. “Playboy radio.”

According to the article that I read, one of the satellite services is taking the bunny to radio. This challenged everything that I thought I knew about guys. That we’re visual creatures and that we’re not the best abstract thinkers. Playboy radio?

Okay, I get it that there is a thriving business in 900 phone numbers. So there is some precedence for talking dirty on the radio. But this business summed up to me everything that a real guy would have no interest in. Which got me thinking about other things that I would have never put together—like Poker TV, men’s mousse and “Adult Outlet” (I saw that on a billboard in Las Vegas a few years ago).

Unlikely pairings. And the more I thought about it they’re one of the real keys to innovation; the ability to put things together in a new and innovative way.

Meeting the needs of your existing customers is a challenge. You’ve got to watch and listen. And be prepared to shake things up when they aren’t being served. But the really tough part is serving the needs of your customers that they don’t even know they have. Their unrealized needs.

How do you find someone’s needs that they don’t even know they have? It’s not easy. You’ve got to understand their business so well that you can anticipate totally new solutions for today’s and tomorrow’s problems. For example, how many of you out there ever imagined the Internet or email before you had your first computer. Be honest.

Most of us can’t imagine something that is a few steps beyond anything we’re currently using. Take hybrid cars or the iPod. Both are relatively small leaps from things that already existed. But I’m guessing that they were a totally surprise to most of you. Heck, I’ll admit, I never saw either of them coming. And now I find both essential.

Sure there are some innovations that just come out of thin air. But most of them come in a more pedestrian way, they come from combining two unlikely things to create something totally new.

So the next time you see an unlikely pairing, and trust me you will, appreciate the leap of faith that someone took to create it. Sure it might be a bridge to nowhere, but at least they asked the questions and explored a new direction to take things.

And hopefully the unlikely pairing will motivate you to explore your own unlikely combination. Something that will push you in a new direction. I’d like to continue with this conversation about innovation, but I’ve got an important radio program that I need to listen to.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Also check out his newly revised best-seller “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.


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