Unusual innovations for unusual times


While the world came screeching to a standstill and most businesses panicked, a few businesses experienced almost the opposite. Deliberately or not, they tapped the nerve of human behavior in these unsettled, unpredictable times. As a consequence, they’ve achieved unprecedented business success.

No, I’m not talking about the companies that first come to mind, those providing PPE’s, medical equipment, or meeting software. I’m talking about something as ordinary as paint. But before I explain what I mean, allow me to describe a true entrepreneurial mindset.

Almost every startup has one thing in common. Their founder bumped into a problem, a lightbulb went on, and that sudden inspiration formed the basis of their success.

Consider the two college kids who found themselves in a panic after they inadvertently posted a photo of themselves smoking weed. Oops! Wishing a function existed to delete the photo before it fell into the wrong hands, they invented Snap. Today, users send more than four billion photos via Snap, every single day.

Or how about the entrepreneur who was so annoyed at failing to hail a taxi to Orly Airport in Paris that he created Uber?

What these experiences have in common is something I call “small data,” which I’ve defined as “seemingly insignificant observations made in our daily lives.” My research shows that close to 84 percent of all startups were born from small data observations.

Every day, each and every one of us is exposed to myriad instances of small data. If seized and utilized, they have the potential to fundamentally change a company, an industry, or even the way we live. As Covid-19 ravages our world, opportunities to pick up on behavioral changes through small data have never been more abundant.

As an example, while stuck indoors like the rest of us, a few weeks ago I was searching for paint for my new house.

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If you’re a design nut like me, I’m sure you’ve spotted the perfect color in the street environment and taken a photo of it so you can share it with the guy in the paint store, only to realize the color in the photo is nothing like the color in-situ. The paint guy tears his hair out from frustration, as you try, and fail, to search your memory and find the lost color on a chip.

This was the situation I found myself in, when I serendipitously came across Tint, an Australian startup founded in the middle of the crisis and now revolutionizing the world of paint.

Three university graduates identified the issue: no color in the real world is ever exactly the same on a screen. Setting out to solve the problem, they ended up with Tint . Press a small device right against the color you’ve fallen in love with, and the device captures the color’s secret source. Share that code with your local paint store, and they’ll mix a can with your perfect color.

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“We launched Tint in February,” says CEO and co-founder Djordje Dikic from his locked-down home in Melbourne, “and I hate to say this, but had it not been for Covid-19, we wouldn’t have been as successful as we are now.” He is fully aware that such statement, if taken out of context, may sound controversial — as if he’s happy to take advantage of the crisis — but the numbers don’t lie.

I was not the only person locked in my house and going into a frantic renovation mode. People all around the world, stuck inside their homes, spent untold hours staring at their tired old walls and wishing for a new color scheme. Given the challenge of leaving home and visiting the local paint store, Tint came in incredibly handy. It was the perfect device, launching at the optimal moment. It was a lifeline for many home renovators, as they could order the right color online.

Tint tapped into a philosophy I coined, many years ago. I called it “Clicks & Mortar” – the idea of a seamless combination of offline and online.

What makes the Tint concept so beautiful is that it wasn’t born out of a lab, but instead from picking up on small data. The Tint founders spotted an inherent need in the market and adapted a solution to it.

Right now, we’re witnessing a profound change in consumer patterns. As I discussed in a recent article, we’ve witnessed the arrival of the first-ever “Eighth Entry Point.”

Here’s a quick recap: in our lives, we experience entry points, including the first time we go to school, when we get married, our first job, and when we retire. Each of these entry points opens up our world to completely new needs — and thus the need for completely new products or services. When expecting one’s first newborn, you suddenly find you have a need for a baby stroller; when you get married, you suddenly discover a need for bed linens and kitchen appliances that you never before noticed.

We’ve always had seven entry points, but now, as we confront Covid-19 and its aftermath, is the first time we’ve had an eighth entry point. And now, with the birth of a new, never-seen-before eighth entry point, is the perfect moment to spot small data and turn them into golden opportunities.

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So, before you descend into panic, do me a favor. Sharpen your eyes and ask yourself: What gaps have appeared around you as a consequence of Covid-19? What profound behavioral changes do you notice?

Those small data you spot might not only identify a completely new consumer need, but they might shape the foundation for products and services we’ve all been waiting for but had no idea we so desperately needed. Before now.

This article first appeared in www.linkedin.com

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About Author

Martin Lindstrom

Martin Lindstrom is the founder and chairman of Lindstrom Company, the world’s leading brand & culture transformation group, operating across five continents and more than 30 countries. TIME Magazine has named Lindstrom one of the “World’s 100 Most Influential People.” Lindstrom is a high profile speaker and author of 7 New York Times best-selling books.

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