What we can learn from the Ocean Cleanup Project about innovation through ridiculous ideas, experimentation and being a force for good.
Members of my Futures Club will get access to the full video, but for everyone else, here is an extended ‘teaser’ which I am sure you will find useful. Prof. Jim Dator is one of the world’s foremost futurists, and his Second Law of Futures states that “any useful idea about the future must appear ridiculous”. What does he mean? How is this useful for generating innovation? Watch the video to find out.
To watch the whole video, sign up now for my Futures Club – it’s no risk, with a money back guarantee if you don’t find it valuable.
Welcome to Throw Forward Thursday. As it happens, this is Episode 99. So, we’ll have the Big Century celebration next week, but today we are in part two of looking at the Ocean Cleanup Project. In season three of Throw Forward Thursday, we introduce a concept one week, and then in the second week, which is where we are now, we go into a behind the scenes look at how to think like a futurist and some of the tools and some of the resources that will help you and your team to up your strategic imagination.
It’s not just strategic thinking, but it’s the ability to stretch that strategic imagination by looking at the future and then looking back at ourselves and asking, what can we change and how do we deal with the systems that we’ve got?
This week is the first time that we are going to make this content exclusive for our Futures Club members. So, if you’re not a Futures Club member, you’re going to just get a little snippet, a little taster of the longer video, and then we’re going to ask you to sign up to become a member. Here’s how to do that. There are a whole lot of different options, hopefully, one of which will suit your budget, and you can become a member of the Members Club. There’s serious value there.
Anyway, on with the show, as they say. If you haven’t watched last week’s video, please make sure that you go back and watch it. It’s the wonderful story of Boyon Slat what a name and his Ocean Cleanup project and this idea that a 16 year old school kid had to just clean the ocean and get rid of plastic. And he didn’t give himself permission to not think big. He just said, hey, if I can do it in my swimming pool, why can’t I do it in the ocean? Something that a 16 year old would think.
But yet it’s that attitude that can really unlock some thinking, especially at a time of incredible technology advancements and disruptive change. Because if you give yourself permission to think ridiculous thoughts, you might unlock something that is maybe not as ridiculous as it appears.
So there are three things I want to talk about. Three essentially, they’re not really tools but they are mindset shifts, and if you like, almost tricks that you can use to help your brain unlock creativity and innovation.
The first of those is this concept of ridiculous ideas and we get this idea from Professor Jim Data. He is the head of the Futures Institute at the University of Hawaii, and he has a number of laws of the futures, laws of future studies, if you like. And one of his is that any idea about the future, which is going to be useful, any useful idea about the future, needs to appear ridiculous.
Now, that might sound like a strange thing to say, but what he means by that and I think he’s spot on, by the way, is that if we are going to stretch our strategic imaginations, if you’re in a place where you need innovation, where you’re looking for new ideas, where you want to push the boundaries of the work that you are doing. Then what you need to do is you need to jump, not to something that’s a slight improvement on what you already do, that’s not just the next step in the development of whatever work you’re doing, but you need to kind of pick a number of different lanes that you could go down and ask, what would the most ridiculous version of this look like?
For example, you could have a look at the product or service that you are offering to your marketplace and there are a number of different characteristics. One of those is the price. So, you could say, what would happen in our industry if we not just increased the price by inflation or 10% or 20%? What happens if we went crazy? What happens if we doubled the price? If we tripled the price? If we ten times the price?
Interestingly, I’ve done this a few times in my career and there were moments in my career where I got to the end of a year and I realised, good grief, I’ve worked hard this year. I mean, that’s a wonderful problem to have. As my wife often says, it’s better than the opposite problem of coming to the end of the year and having had no work. Fair point Jane, but it’s still a problem. I mean, this was when I was travelling rather than being in a virtual studio and so I was on the road like 250 nights I spent in a hotel the one year, that I counted up, not the same hotel, different hotels with flights and everything in between. I mean, I was really it was a great year for the bank account, not so great for exhaustion and being away from the family.
And so, somebody just said to me, clearly supply and demand is a factor for you. I think it was flippant, they just said, you should double your prices. I said, what would happen if I did that? Well, they said, well, you might lose half your clients because you’re now way too expensive for them. But, hey, if you lose half your clients at double the fee, you can work half of the time, and earn the same amount of money. All good? Yeah, made sense to me., maybe I was just a bit overtired and didn’t think it through, but I took a deep breath and doubled my prices.
The next year I worked even harder at double the price. It was fantastic. Now, I’m not suggesting that this is a business model for you, and I’m not suggesting this will work for you in exactly that way, but maybe if you do trust supply and demand, it could work. I’m just giving you the fact that this is a real life thing, this is not hypothetical, I’ve done this and how do you know your pricing is perfect? How do you know that that’s exactly right?
What happened for me is that new clients emerged, clients who actually thought I was too cheap and because I was too cheap had put me into a category of, we don’t want to use cheap things. There are a whole lot of things you should never buy cheap, sushi, and tattoos. Yeah, there are a few things on my list where I said, no, I’m not just it’s not a price issue, and in fact, the price might be too cheap.
So suddenly I have this ridiculous idea of doubling my fees and then I discover it’s more than just the doubling of the fees now. I’m discovering there are pricing models I didn’t fully understand in my industry. There are clients I’ve never had access to before and I suddenly find a different way of engaging.
Now, I then had a whole lot of clients come back to me and say, but now you’re too expensive for us and instead of giving them a discount or reducing my fees, it forced me to say, well, how can I add additional value? I could give you copies of my books, I could add additional services on. And I discovered that it wasn’t that they literally didn’t have the money, it’s they just needed proof that they could get the value. Is that useful as a story for you? I hope that it is.
On the other hand, maybe you could say, well, why don’t I just give my products and services away? The model that we’re talking about now is a model we learned from one of our clients nearly 15 years ago. It was a big manufacturing company, they made trains, I mean not model trains, like actual trains for underground railways and city train services. You can’t just give this stuff away but as part of an experimental process during one of the bid processes they were going through, they thought, well, why don’t we give the train away, no cost up front, but then create a ten year maintenance contract with the client. We know the language today; the language is trains as a service.
We know this now because you don’t buy the software, you pay a monthly licence and then you use the software. Software as a service, cloud as a service, everything as a service. This is a model that we now know, but it emerged in industries you wouldn’t have expected, where people just had, what’s the ridiculous idea? The ridiculous idea is, let’s take our pricing to zero.
Now, we still have to make some money. So where can we make our money? What type of contract do we have? A ridiculous idea allows you to see your industry differently, allows you to bring a different approach to the market and suddenly you’re unlocking something you haven’t heard of.
I hope you enjoyed that little snippet of what the Futures Club members are going to get. We went on to talk about how to engage with that concept of ridiculous ideas and then talk about experimentation and what that means, and then doing business for good.
So hopefully, you’ll consider signing up. You can get access right now, you’ll be able to watch the rest of that video, and it’s risk free investment for you because if you don’t like what you see, we’ll give you your money back and you can cancel at any time.
Hope to see you as a member in my Futures Club soon.
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Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.