I’ve been thinking recently about the idea of “Big” ideas. We all tend to confuse small ideas with “Big” ideas, because when you think about it big ideas are often actually small, very focused ideas.
Nike isn’t “Perform like a world-class athlete.” It’s “Just Do It.”
Apple isn’t “Change The World Through Innovation.” It’s “Think Different.”
Those big promises and brand associations we make with those two iconic brands are simply byproducts of what are really small directives, actions they tell consumers to take: “do it” & “think different.” Neither are big ideas in and of themselves.
You see something similar in category changing innovations.
If nothing else, history has taught us that we must take notice notice of the small problems. The needs customers don’t even know they have. The seemingly “small” inconveniences. Some of the best products ever created focused on those small inconveniences.
Was the Blackberry all that bad? It was a phone and it had productivity tools. Was Blockbuster all that bad? You eventually did get a movie, right?
But both the iPhone & Netflix decided those little inconveniences were intolerable and built products and services that eventually overtook their competitors.
All throughout human history progress has been built on the back of eliminating any and all inconvenience, even if the end result remained the same. Horses got you places, cars got you there faster. Fans provided relief from heat, air conditioning eliminated heat. Etc, etc.
The greatest catalyst for innovation is humanity’s capacity to never be truly satisfied by anything. There’s always better.
And when it comes to the notion that big ideas are actually small ideas, it reminds me of something I recent read in Steve Jobs book:
Even at a young age, Lisa [his first daughter] began to realize his diet obsessions reflected a life philosophy, one in which asceticism and minimalism could heighten subsequent sensations.
“He believed that great harvests came from arid sources, pleasure from restraint,” she noted. “He knew the equations that most people didn’t know: Things led to their opposites.”