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The Power of Analogy: How to Go From $0 to $1 Billion and Beyond

Updated: Jun 20, 2021

Entrepreneurs that scale their business to the billions and beyond have a gift for taking something that already exists and transforming it into something new.

You’ve all heard the expression “there’s nothing new under the sun”. You don't need an original idea to build a remarkable business. Creative entrepreneurs harvest working concepts and business models proving time and again that re-purposing an existing idea is a powerful means for discovering more novel approaches and building a remarkable business.

Many early stage entrepreneurs are fixed on the notion that innovation is about finding a need in the marketplace and filling it. However, in a cluttered marketplace, most customer needs are well defined and they have abundant choices to fulfill them. Rarely if ever will incremental improvements to known product or service concepts transform markets.

Creative entrepreneurs transport known solutions from one place and transport them to another. To transport known concepts the rest of us don’t see, creative entrepreneurs use the power of analogy. You don’t have to look too far for stunning examples of this principle in action.

Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, invented a completely new experience for consumers to drink coffee. On the surface the idea of a coffee shop seemed pretty pedestrian and nobody actually needed a place to drink coffee. But Schultz was thinking much bigger and far differently than the conventional wisdom. He didn’t invent the espresso bar–he borrowed it.

Gutenberg is said to have developed the idea of the printing press from watching farmers extract the juice from grapes. He realized the same process and mechanisms could be utilized to press ink to paper. Humanity was forever transformed into the knowledge age.

George de Mestral got the idea for Velcro when he observed how burrs stuck in his dog’s fur when they walked in the woods.

University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman, studied his wife’s waffle iron and adapted the pattern of little spikes produced by the appliance to create Nike’s original waffle-tread running shoe.

For as long as there have been garages, people have been selling stuff out of them. That gave a young software engineer the idea to take something that was established in the real world and transport it to the emerging online world. Ebay was the result.

You can improve your chances of making similar leaps in your own business simply by exploring and observing how existing knowledge might be re-purposed into a product that people will stand in line in the rain to buy.

Every entrepreneur that scales from zero to a billion dollar enterprise has done so on the back of an existing idea.

To bring new value to customers and scale your business, use the power of analogy in your creative thinking. Look in places that others dismiss.

You can make tremendous progress in your innovative ideas by knowing a little bit about other things and then apply that knowledge to what seems like an unrelated idea.


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