The power of mixing


Above is a tasty brew I stumbled upon in the course of some world travels.  Fermented brew plus Kona coffee.  Who knew?  It tastes pretty good, actually… like good coffee.  Iced coffee, that is.

You can either invent something new to the world (hard to do), or you can borrow liberally to build a better mousetrap (easier to do).  Taking an ingredient out of its original context is a good way to innovate, and it can result in some potent outcomes:

  • Yield-management practices from the hoteling industry applied to air travel changes the way tickets are priced and sold
  • Your chocolate sticking out of my peanut butter
  • A big motor squeezed in to a small chassis (the BMW 2002) creates a new category of car, the sports sedan
  • Cato and Nash
  • A commodity hard drive married up to a Walkman-style player gives us — you guessed it! — the iPod
  • Tango and Cash
  • The caffeinated doughnut

That’s a very short list — thousands of innovative products have come about from taking two known but separate ingredients and kapow! slam! zoom!  putting them together in a way that creates value.  Slamming, smashing things together comes from making cross-industry connections.  And in an interesting way, it’s a good strategy for reducing risk.  While unknown in the context of your competitive environment, something like yield management science or Cash or a big car motor is something already tested and proven and evolved by others.  So you’re less likely to end up with arrows in your back.

Who wants more risk than necessary, anyhow?  Mix it up.

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