Non Standard Leadership Techniques

Profiting More from Creative Ways to Use Your Old Products, Even the Duds

Daniel Klatt asked:

I read the other day about a European company that created a technology for stores for example in a mall to keep teens from hanging out in front of their businesses or loitering.

It’s a device that makes a high-pitched frequency that teens can clearly hear yet which most adults can’t, because people typically lose the top and low end of the hearing range as they age.

Teens hear the noise and it’s annoying so they don’t stay long in the stores. Adults don’t hear the noise so it doesn’t bother them and they shop “in peace”. That’s the theory, anyway, and it didn’t catch on or wasn’t a big enough market for its developers to become rich.

Instead, though, someone took that basic premise and turned it around, finding a market using the “strengths” of the technology in reverse.

On the one hand the high-pitch sound only the teens can hear was a nuisance to them in stores, yet could there be an advantage to this technology that would allow only teens to hear something that adults cannot?

That kind of “how can we turn this around and find another application for this” question I’d encourage you to ask constantly to expand your mind, open you up to greater resources and huge profits.

How did the company answer that question? Their technology is being used in cell phones, as the ring tone.

Think about it. 16-year-old in English class. Blue Tooth ear bud in ear. Cell phone rings. Teen reaches down and casually touches phone to answer it, softly whispering into mic probably concealed behind her hair on the ear bud.

Teacher clueless the conversation even happened.

Student heard nothing from the lecture and didn’t learn anything, and probably distracted or amused other students. Teacher oblivious.

Yet you can imagine how popular that feature would be to the youth market, and I could see the first person to use it at school being a trend-setter and it spreading fast throughout the youth market…

Making a fortune for this technology company that initially had wanted to keep kids away, and potentially limiting a lot of educational successes.

(I’m not saying I support the technology and I can see schools banning that ring tone if they can find a way to enforce it with adults not generally even hearing it.)

What I am saying is I respect the creativity in taking “X” that was a dud, let’s say, and using it’s unique qualities in another way to have potentially a huge impact.

Perhaps a better example that illustrates this is another technology that’s been around a long time that’s also coming to cell phones.

GPS – Global Positioning System.

Initially GPS satellites were launched by the military to monitor troop movements and assist the government with surveillance.

Then in the 1980s the government allowed private companies to start offering GPS tracking equipment and today its standard on many cars as a way to find the nearest pizza place or the quickest way to Grandma’s house in rush hour traffic.

It’s also the latest mobile phone feature, where you can get audible directions based on where you’re at. Old technology, used creatively to help people find what they’re looking for and fill a need.

And it looks like the cell phone companies are going to charge extra for this service, making it a direct profit center for them.

However, I envision a time when this also becomes a security issue, where parents buy their children cell phones for the sense of security knowing the parents can always find their children through tracking the phone.

You see how that’s an example of a possible way to modify an existing technology that could become very profitable.

I suggest you take a look at the various challenges you have and ask yourself what tools can you use differently to resolve them, and you could find yourself with a multi-million-dollar idea, as well as a mind stretched far beyond its current boundaries and perceived limitations.


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