NewNorth Center

Design in Business

The Innovation 5
Part Two: CONNECT – Creating New Ways to Put Things Together

Anyone who has read The Tipping Point is familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of Connectors, those individuals with lots of friends and acquaintances and a knack for introducing strangers who normally would never meet. Most Connectors earn this distinction because they move through the world via a variety of niches and subcultures. A dentist who coaches high school wrestling, takes weekend pottery classes and volunteers in soup kitchens most likely views life from a multitude of perspectives.

But there’s another, albeit similar, kind of Connector in circulation these days: those perceptive individuals who connect things they see in different corners of their world to create surprising and useful innovations.

Sometimes we connect as a result of serendipity. Consider the fellow out walking his dog one day who arrived home with his sweater covered in thistles. His interest in how the weeds held fast to his wooly garment inspired the ubiquitous hook-and-loop technology that we know today as Velcro.

Other times an inspired connection begins in a related field. This happened to the guy whose first business involved “dumping” European wines on the U.S. market. He went on to launch a chain of successful grocery stores by creating unique products with personality, set in a smaller environment that emphasizes great value and customer service. That guy’s name was Joe.

A momentous connection made by accident? Post-it Notes. Here’s an inspired story about a product first perceived as a failure and how it eventually turned into a staple of modern life. (Look it up on

What about connecting the idea of a gathering place for adults with a premium product? That would be Starbucks.

The ability to connect what you see in the world in ways that deliver unexpected, elegant, useful and profitable solutions is a skill worth grooming. As you see from the examples above, this talent does not require you start from scratch, reinvent or emulate. Instead, it’s about nurturing your understanding of the relationships between products, processes and people – and connecting them in ways previously unimagined.

Where’s your next great idea coming from? Perhaps it’s out there in the weeds, just waiting to snag you.

Next up in The Innovation 5
APPEAL: Converting Ideas into Something That Causes People to Respond

Nate Young

Thu, 27 Oct 2011 - Permalink

# Comments

Interesting Article

NNC recommends reading an article by The Wall Street Journal: You Call That Innovation?