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Is your Idea based on something original?

I was recently introduced to a great band called Mumford & Sons. They sing an interesting song called ‘The Cave’. The scenes of the video that accompanies the song uses themes and content from two famous bands of old: The Beatles (Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) and The WHO (Quadrophenia).  The video continues with a connection between the new band and the old favourites.

I am also reading a book called ‘Made to Stick’ by Chip & Dan Heath. The books discusses how to make ideas stick, and how some ideas stick more than others.

The fascinating thing about both the song and the book, is that a great idea does not need to be an absolute original. The Heath brothers discuss the meaning of experience, that it is solely based on the past, and restricts us in our creativity and innovation. Yet as business people, when we pitch for a job, we find experience is quite high up on the list of importance for a potential client. So we mostly do well because of our invaluable ‘experience’ in that area of business.

Then my question becomes: Which is more important, experience or new?

original IdeasWe probably mostly agree that experience is based on the past, therefore when someone comes up with a new idea, if you strip it down, it will be based tightly or loosely on something already created. Like inventing a new type of vacuum cleaner, or an innovative ‘green’ car. The Heath lads give examples of selling high concept movie ideas based on existing great movies, such as Alien being “Jaws on a Spaceship” or Speed being “Die Hard on a bus

Building blocks are used in our unconscious to always ‘invent’ or create something based on the information that we already have. But that is not NEW, is it? What does new and innovative mean? I would suggest that we customise to suit our clients, so they feel special, and have had a product/service created especially for them. I would also suggest that some clients want something that has been proved through the test of time. So we are back to the ‘experience’ and the ‘known’.

It takes great courage to clear the mind, put the building blocks aside, be childlike, and work extra hard to think of something original to deliver for a client (you know those 20% that we work 80% of the time for?)

But are they worth it?

Would love to hear your thoughts below…

P.S [Links here to videos of The Cave Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Quadrophenia and The book Made to Stick]

Elaine Rogers is a Business Trainer, Coach and Writer. She takes pain away. She helps soothe the rough and tumble of running a business through education, information and coaching. And a bit of entertainment. Elaine hangs out at The Smart Train She provides online training and coaching solutions in the areas of MS Office Skills, Business Skills, and Soft Skills. She also provides exclusive content for her ever growing email list.

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  • Hi Elaine. You raise an interesting point here. My own take is that “new” is very difficult to achieve. It has usually been done before by someone. I think that most people expect the usual from suppliers i.e. quality, value and solid customer service. This is probably enough for most people. If you can do something quirky or slightly over and above, then this is icing on an already great cake. I am not saying don’t do something new (or try to), but would question what the benefit would be of spending a large amount of time trying to conceive something when your customers already think you rock and are still going to give you great references.
    Not an easy one to answer either way I suspect.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    Elaine – thanks for the post!!

    I was told some years back that it’s all about stealing somebody elses idea and making it better.


  • Anonymous


    This is the 2nd book by Dan and Chip Heath I’ve heard of in one week.

    There is that saying that there is nothing new under the sun. It’s often paraphrased from a longer quote (I think Biblical?) but the meaning is consistent. Maybe there is nothing or very little new under the sun. Sometimes there is. And what is new? New can be a novel experience to the individual or it can be an original thought presented by a thought leader.

    Your post makes me wonder how many people are willing to think new thoughts or it is more like they are emerging from Plato’s cave and discovering that what is “real” is mind-blowing. For some of my clients, earning 6 figures and having financial freedom is an extraordinary experience. For others, it is so commonplace that there is nothing special there. I’ve even seen people transform both themselves and their businesses by changing their choice of words in interpersonal communication. These are common experiences all over the world but they feel fresh in both concept and experience to the individual. However, once you open your mind to a new idea, it is easier to allow more new ones in.

    Is it packaging or are we moving ideas slowly forward over time? Are we deepening human experience using our work with our business clients as a vehicle? LIke Barney and you said, it’s not a cut and dry answer.

  • Making the existing better is a very noble pursuit 🙂

  • Hi Elli,
    Well I aim to inform also 🙂 I am really enjoying their book.
    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the post. ! would imagine the trick is to ensure we are constantly rethinking ideas, and learning from others and ourselves.
    Whether an idea is new or not, it may be for the individual. But I would be curious about how much we take in unconsciously, and then come up with a brand new idea??? It could have simply been inspired by a blog post we read, an image we saw, a feeling we experienced…

  • If it works, and it’s better, then it’s a win/win 🙂
    Thanks for reading Paul

  • “Icing on an already great cake”.
    Barney, my husband bakes the best cakes in the land, and they do not need “extras” but he will always “dress” them for presentation purposes, just as important 😉
    But I have also seen him (he’ll kill me for this) sprinkle icing sugar over a cake to hide some imperfections. Ultimately, the cake still tastes delicious, and doesn’t harm anyone.

    Maybe we need a bit of icing at times, to help us in our presentation of an already great product. It could well be down to the presenter on the day (bad hair day).
    Thanks for reading and providing a great analogy 😉

  • As long as we can pull it off 😉

  • I think it has to do with what you provide. If you are in the consultancy side of things, you might as well cultivate your capacity to ignore what others have done for clients in the past and boost your lateral/innovative thinking. It’s a bit like a catch 22 though, because as Elaine says, in order for a client to buy into this idea of letting you be innovative, you first have to show them that it worked in the past (which is a bit contradictory). Or maybe it’s not so difficult and it is all a matter of persuading the client to trust who you are and your ability to be innovative, merely by presenting proof that you were innovative in the past! A bit of pressure for oneself though 🙂

  • A good point Facundo – persuading the client to trust who you are and your ability to be innovative”.
    We all know that in the services sector, the client buys the person, not so much the service.

    There is always an element of trust involved, because sometimes the result or solution is not as tangible as one would like, and they may find it hard to envisage the final result. So they must trust the service provider, their actions will provide the feedback.

    Thanks for the great comments Barney and Facundo 🙂

  • I think it’s very important to ensure that call to actions are accounted for and by whom – and then followed up and reviewed. Certain meetings I attend; anything left undone stays on the agenda, others seem to just allow them to drop off as if they are not relevant at next meeting.

    As Niall says, selling should be about the client/customers’ needs, not what is being “sold” and this needs to be emphasized in the meetings. I always view sales people as almost self-employed as they have to manage their clients and their day. The difference is they have a Manager to answer to and that Manager should be as supportive and encouraging as possible.

    I have sat in Sales meetings where agents numbers have been projected on the wall for everyone to see – that can be degrading, and I always felt a 1-1 with the Manager would serve better to empower the agent and encourage them to change direction and be pro-active in trying new tactics.
    A little competition is healthy and I agree to perhaps split a group into 2, thereby not singling out one person and helps to forge camaraderie and healthier relationships amongst the team.

    Nice post Dave, thanks

  • Dave Thomas

    Thanks for the feedback. I have always believed no matter whether it is sales, editorial, technology etc…. that meetings should be about results and not frequency. I have seen too many companies hold meeting after meeting just for the sake of meeting. Find a way to make meetings work, make them informative, and make them something workers want and not have to attend.

  • Very pertinent points made around meetings. In a company I worked in previously, some novel approaches were to have everyone stand instead of sit during a meeting – focuses the mind and also has the inevitable effect of shortening meeting time! This can be especially effective when some meetings are held as much out of habit as anything else, or as an excuse to ‘catch up’, without a real need or benefit to actually having a meeting. 

  • Warren Rutherford

    Dave, great insights. As one who has sat in many meetings as a participant and a facilitator your suggestions brought several memorable smiles to my face.  In sales meetings I would expect a need to address the topics, pace, and agenda to the behavioral preferences of the sales people to help them become more engaged, i.e. your suggestion about making meetings fun and not being preoccupied with numbers. Great team management starts with understanding the what, why, and how of motivating your team.  Thanks for the great tips.

  • This is something I have come across in the past where a business sales manager is looking for work, but the wrong work and generating the incorrect level of sufficient business. I think a sales manager should also re-asses how the business he is representing can be found on the internet!

  • Thanks for the opportunity to speak about this Sian!

    @Niall For me one of the big advantages that cloud gives accountants is actually the ability it gives them to grow their business outside of their local business environment. Collaborating with clients online really means that it becomes less important where the accountant’s office is in relation to their clients office / shop / van / spare room! Yet they can still maintain really effective working relationships.

  • You’re welcome. Thank you for doing the interview and providing such indepth info on the product

  • Janine Gilmour

    Interesting article about Sage One. As a SOHO operator myself, I appreciate the focus on simplicity, accessibility and reliability… although my office is anything but paperless!

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