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Ideas: The Start of Something Big

The idea that good ideas can arrive in an unexpected flash of insight ("The Big Idea," Fall 2006) is real for some of us. Unfortunately, most institutions do not support this unconventional method of solving problems. My best ideas have come while lying in bed in the middle of the day. Recently, one of these "naps" allowed me to create a solution for a client we were about to lose. That idea has generated over $2.8 million in annual gross profit.

Likewise, a few years ago I was caught staring out the window. My boss asked me, "Why aren't you working?" But those few minutes allowed me to solve a problem that resulted in cost savings of $1.2 million a month for the company.

The incremental approach to solving a problem is doing what you're told. The order-of-magnitude approach is to allow innovators to use their own methods, however strange they might be. The metaphor I like is that of the rock tumbler: You put rocks into it that are sharp and dull. The random tumbling creates smooth, bright, and colorful rocks. This is how the innovator's mind works. We don't like stakes in the ground and six month project plans. We like to iteratively "tumble" ideas.

Tony Pericle

Richmond, Va.

I have an innovative mind, and I can frequently see where a company can make a change in their product line that could result in increased sales. Recently, I have been thinking about how one of my ideas could be taken to a manufacturer, but I had no clear idea how to proceed. This article helps to clarify the steps. Thank you.

Rod Newbound

Mount Vernon, Wash.

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