Fifty Shades of Smart, asking the ‘Smart’ questions

Just this morning, coming into work on the tram, the lady next to me was reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.  Oh no not another person reading that book, it’s everywhere, everyone seems to be reading it. Fifty Shades of Grey has been recently topping bestseller book lists, and has won the honour of being the fastest selling adult novel of all time!  No matter what you think of the book (mummy porn, erotic fiction, Fifty Shades of Boring anyone?), there is something going on here that we can’t ignore, and we can actually learn from. Hats off to the author E.L.James for putting a spin on an old idea and coming up with a blockbuster.  Simply by asking the smart question. How do you rejuvenate the old romance novel for a new century?  Sex it up of course DOH!

Asking the right smart question can lead to the next smart idea.  So often we think innovation is coming up with a bright new idea, that no one else has thought of. That’s really hard to do, so instead imagine focusing on the next ‘smart idea’ (an idea that builds on existing ideas) that might be staring us right in the face.  Two questions to ask, to find that smart idea are:

1. What already exists that you can put a new spin on?
 “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” wrote Isaac Newton in a letter to Robert Hooke in 1676. Newton tells us in this quote how science, indeed civilization advances in small steps – incremental advances each building on what came before it.  You can apply this ‘Standing on the shoulder of giants’ philosophy to even something as mundane as reality TV!  For example just when we thought the whole talent quest format was done and dusted with ‘Australia’s got Talent’, ‘X factor’, ‘Australian Idol’ along came ‘The Voice’ creating viewing history.

2. What problem am I solving? 
The other question to ask to find that next smart idea is what is something that frustrates you?  What is annoying and might be annoying to lots of other people too?  For example how often have you thought ‘I wish I could jump the queue and order my coffee’ and along comes an app or several that let you do just that.

Now our challenge in business is finding the next smart ideas, the next  ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ in our day to day work using these two questions.  It might be staring straight at you…perhaps in that cup of coffee on your desk.



Bright ideas – where do they come from?

Business StorytellingMark Henderson was sitting in a coffee shop when he asked the barista what they did with the used coffee grounds. “We just put them in the bin” was the reply. Mark also found out that, the shop alone threw out about 10 kilograms of grounds a day.  He thought there must be a better way and started to research how coffee grounds could be used to produce fertiliser.

Anecdotally I also know a few people who put coffee grounds into their gardens because they have heard it’s good for gardens, but no one thought of taking it further than that.

Mark and his friend Geoff Howell did and  quit their jobs as IT consultants and set up ‘Espressogrow‘, which plans to pay coffee shops for their used grounds, and then turn it into organic fertiliser at a central manufacturing plant .  Wow, what a neat idea. As an entrepreneur I am always interested in where people’s ideas come from – like Mark’s it could be with our next cup of coffee?  The mindset that drives this is usually ‘There must be a better way’.

Ci2011 – Creative Innovation Conference Melbourne Nov 2011


Business Storytelling

We are honoured and excited to be part of this year’s Creative Innovation 2011 conference.
Ci2010 was described as the “Best conference EVER!” (MICE magazine), and this year’s event promises to be even more relevant and transformational.

Creative Innovation 2011 is a rare opportunity to learn, think, connect and share ideas with over 35 of the world’s most influential thinkers under one roof to inspire your leadership and achieve business success.

The theme for Ci2011 is: “The challenges and opportunities of a super-connected world”

We are honoured to be on the same speaking program with one of USA’s leading entrepreneurs Raymond Kurzweil, acclaimed philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett (USA), world authority on creative thinking Edward De Bono (UK), technology entrepreneur Tan Le (USA), Stanford and IDEO design thinking expert Brendan Boyle (USA), “The Innovation Architect” Paddy Miller (USA), education guru Stephen Heppell (UK), Australian of the Year Simon McKeon, and many more…

This is a 2 Day Conference plus Deep Conversations, 10 Master Classes, a Gala Dinner and outstanding Australian performers and  artists…not to be missed!

It will be held on 16-18 November 2011 at the Sofitel Melbourne On Collins.

Please acces the website for further information and registration details.