Creating Something from Nothing

One of my favourite books as a child was called, Something from Nothing: 101 things to create from next to nothing. I won it in a writing competition and I’ve still got it. I don’t know if I actually ever made anything from that book, but I loved the idea of it, and I looked at it often.

Perhaps it left an impression on me.

My Social Board Game

It was through a series of events in my life that the idea of creating a social board game around relationships came to me. A big part of the process was playing out for years beforehand – through general observation and then eventually close analysis of a problem that I was personally encountering over and over. I started to see patterns. One of those patterns was that many people, both men and women, had great difficulty “starting over” after experiencing a major relationship breakdown.

Although the following is a fairly extreme example, it illustrates what I believe is a widespread problem with both men and women. Marlon Brando once said, “With women I’ve got a long bamboo pole with a leather loop on the end. I slip the loop around their necks so they can’t get away or come too close. Like catching snakes.”

Essentially, my game attempts to connect people through a humourous approach to the hurdles and journeys we face in love and relationships.

On the night of my business launch a few months ago, I joked that the process of creating my business felt like I had been pregnant for nine months and in labour for five. (Months that is.)

Not that I’ve ever been pregnant, but this was the best analogy I could think of. What I meant by this was that there were two distinct creative phases in bringing my business to life, and the second phase was particularly difficult.

Phase one was creating my product; not easy by any means, but a labour of love none-the-less. The second was designing a business – and a brand – around my product; this phase is still very much in its infancy.

So You’ve Got a Brilliant Idea?

“Highly creative people don’t necessarily excel in raw brainpower. They are misfits on some level. They tend to question accepted views and to consider contradictory ones.” – G. Pascal Zachary

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to know how many product or business ideas are generated on a daily basis. The figure would probably be mind blowing. Furthermore, what percentage of these actually make it all the way from the mind it was created in to “BUY NOW!”. A tiny fraction I imagine.

If you’ve got an idea that burns in your mind, then I urge you to pursue it. There’s a lot of factors that go into making the decision to pursue your venture (not the least of which is cost and likelihood of interest from the market), but I think the biggest determining factor should be how compelling your own vision is.

If you’re still in the planning stages, I’ll be very honest and tell you that the road ahead of you is not going to be easy, even if your idea is fantastic. Which you probably know already. Apart from the creative challenges, your first real feat is navigating shark-infested waters to get it to the market. At this point, if you haven’t already been eaten alive (by suppliers, service providers, miscellaneous hangers on, those who want to stomp on you, and those who want to get control of you), then the natives (i.e. customers) may welcome you with open arms, or they may spear you to death. It’s likely that they will just ignore you for a good bit.

This is the reality.

Having said that, I think it would be a tragedy to die without ever knowing. So go you good thing!

Delving Into Your Own Mind

Before studying journalism I had a career in human resources. During my years in HR I encountered numerous personality profiles, none of which ever convinced me personally of providing any really valuable insight. Until I came across the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI).

My results from the HBDI profile created some interesting “aha” moments, and, along with another key event, was a turning point in my life. Like many people, I had never thought of myself as creative, and had always associated being creative with being artistically talented, which I’m not. There were two key things on my HBDI profile that made me take notice. Firstly, by far my most dominant thinking mode was the D quadrant – Conceptualising/Creative. And my key descriptor was Synthesiser, meaning I have a natural tendency to take a variety of elements and re-work them into something new. Big “aha” moment. Many things that had previously confused me about myself suddenly made sense. The beauty of this profile too is that it highlights areas that aren’t your natural preference for working in or “thinking” in, so that you can consciously work on developing those areas. And being conversant in all modes is a definite advantage when you run your own show!

Here’s a quick overview of what you can expect from a HBDI profile from an article on the Mindwerx International site.

What The Profile Does & Doesn’t Measure:

  • All people have access to four thinking modes.
  • The results of the HBDI Survey indicate the degree of preference you have for each of the four quadrants.
  • The profile provides a ‘picture’ of the distribution of your thinking preferences at this time in your life.
  • The HBDI is not a test. There are no right or wrong answers and no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ profiles. The HBDI does not measure intelligence, skill, or competency.

A low score in a given area does not indicate inability; frequently people are very able in areas where extra effort has to be made. However, your profile data will provide you with a better understanding of your potential development opportunities.

For the full article, go to Whole Brain Thinking (using HBDI).

Speaking with my HR hat on, if you haven’t already done so I’d highly recommend sampling and experimenting with some of these personality profiles. Besides just being interesting, they can give you some valuable food for thought. If you work in a team it’s great fun to do it as a team, particularly the HBDI because it highlights some really interesting aspects of balance or imbalance of styles and preferences within the team. Quite a few companies recruit based on “balancing” their team.

Branding the HBDI Way

For an interesting look at branding using the HBDI system, have a look at the article on the HBDI site (it’s a pdf document – just scroll down til you see it) Branding – the Whole Brain Way.

Innovation is a Double-Edged Sword

Twenty04 was arguably the year that interest in innovation reached critical mass. Suddenly, talk of innovation was everywhere.

Today innovation is touted as a necessity in all aspects of business. The mantra is: Innovate or perish. As business owners we’re told we need to offer customers something different – we need that innovative point of difference. That’s what customers respond to.

Or is it? The reality is, there’s some mixed messages on this topic. Firstly we’re often told that you need to offer something that satisfies customers’ needs. But on the other hand we’re also told that it’s possible to create a need that customers didn’t know they had. And innovation is where it’s at.

My response from the trenches is: I think it IS possible to “create a need” in customers, BUT, it’s a VERY complex process. And, unless you know exactly what you’re doing and/or have a massive marketing budget, it’s also a fairly lengthy process.

In his post, If You Think Innovation-Based Startups Are Easy, Think Again, Lester Craft identifies the reality that I’m living. It’s tough.

Ironically, I don’t think my idea is that different! But customers do. As a rule of thumb, I’d say anything that customers are not already familiar with, either personally or through a trusted source, can be considered as requiring the “creation of a need”. (Don’t ask me how to do this – I have NO IDEA!).

However, ultimately I do believe that as long as your idea will genuinely satisfy a need (after you’ve created it), AND you can successfully attract the early adopters (before you go bankrupt), being innovative can put you ahead of the pack.

In his article, Customer Intimacy and Empathy Are Keys to Innovation, Jim Clemmer says:

Many innovations come from a deeper level of customer and market understanding. They go beyond what current customers say they need. They solve problems that customers either don’t realize they have or didn’t know could be solved. These innovations create needs and performance gaps only once customers start using them and get turned on to the possibilities.

Every product and service we now take for granted was once silly, interesting, or just an odd curiosity.

For all you innovation “believers” who can’t wait to get crackin’, check out Innovation Tools I get their newsletter and it’s an excellent source of all things innovative along with many practical “how to” articles for innovation and idea generation.

Next time I’ll talk about what techniques worked for me. Until then,

Have fun!


  1. I agree. I once heard the saying “Poor people search for money, Rich people invent money”. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Hi Chad,

    Thanks for your comment. I like that saying – very proactive!

    I read something recently that made me realise there’s a difference between invention and innovation… Invention may be accidental. Innovation is always planned.

    Not everyone wants to be an inventor, but innovation can be a part of every business. (And needs to be to stay viable.)

    Either way it’s about having a proactive mindset!


  3. Jason Cooper says

    Innovation needs to be an important part of any business, but I believe that strategic planning needs to be woven in with the innovation. I really like the dating game idea… You should really pursue that one 🙂

    Jason Cooper

  4. Hi Jason,

    Thanks very much, and I will pursue it! Sometimes it feels like it’s pursuing me 😀

    Do you mean that you need to start out with a purpose? Sometimes I think it’s a case of you drive the idea, as part of a plan, but sometimes I think the idea drives you, particularly in a culture of innovation and in small businesses. If you’re always on the lookout for better ways of doing things, ideas have a way of finding you! And you never know when they’re going to strike sometimes.

    I used to work for a large company that had an innovation program as part of their strategic plan (and they weren’t in the business of development as such), and they rewarded employees very handsomely for innovations that paid off. Some of the ideas employees came up with were incredible – even really little things that over the long run made a big difference.

    Thanks for your thoughts,

  5. Jason Cooper says


    Great, keep us posted as you make any progress on your dating site. Yes, I believe that you need to start out with a purpose, but that purpose needs to be developed into a strategic plan of attack, so you know exactly where you are right now, where you want to go and how you plan on getting there.

    You also need to take into account any road blocks or detours on the way and what your plan b would be. Basically create a process map and just start following it :).

    Hope that helps!

    Jason Cooper

  6. Hey Jason, thanks for that.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t foresee a lot of the road blocks, so now I’m up to Plan E! I figure if that doesn’t work I’ve got 21 more shots at till I hit Z. Then if that fails I’ll just move on to AA 😀


  7. Oops… perhaps I should rephrase that to A1 🙂

  8. great article!
    Innovation really is key for a successful business.

  9. Hey! great article. youre a real go getter. lets say i have a idea i would like to persue, who would i go to. and with being in college and near broke how could i fund such a thing to make and produce my product?

  10. Hiya Paul… thanks matey.

    In terms of who you should go to with your idea, it really depends on what your idea is, and on who you can get access to. If you’re in the early stages of development, just be very careful who you share your idea with. As for funding, that’s every innovators nightmare!

    Given your circumstance, the best resource I can suggest for you is an ebook I came across – actually it’s more than an ebook, it’s an entire program and it’s fantastic. If you use it, I guarantee you it will give you the shortest possible route to creating your product and getting it to market – including getting all the funding you need. I only wish I had discovered this 2 years ago!!

    The best thing is, it’s very affordable. In fact, for what the program gives you, it’s ridiculously cheap. I’ve only been using this for a short while and had some very interesting results. So I’m certainly going to keep on with it.

    If you’re serious Paul, I urge you to get it and USE it. I’m very keen to support other innovators, so I’d love to hear how you go.

    Best wishes,

  11. oops, I suppose the link would help 🙂

    Have fun!