The Workaround

How do you find the next business idea to work on? Some people want to build a better mousetrap. This is a reasonable strategy. I'd argue a better strategy is to find situations in which people have created 'workarounds' because existing products and services just don't manage to suffice.

The classic example of the workaround is the Post-It Note from 3M. It is said that office workers at 3M once sello-taped and paper-clipped pieces of paper to their screens and documents. When 3M found a glue they had developed did not work as well as desired, an inventor found a use for it in temporarily sticking notes to other objects. The Post-It Note was an instant hit.

In a more modern day setting, airbnb.com started life by connecting visitors to big events with people willing to offer their rooms for rent during those big events. One example is the Obama nomination speech at the Democratic Convention, when hotels would be booked out and you could only stay by renting a room from someone who lived nearby. This was a workaround for lack of hotel space. Airbnb is now valued at $1Bn.

Sometimes, looking at where people are using workarounds to solve their problems could lead you to the next big business.