The Magic Bike Company

Innovate by solving problems

Pain storming, is the technique of identifying and developing countermeasures customers' pains. Necessity is the mother of invention, and it is frustration that fuels the fire! Always be on the lookout for the disappointment that might fuel the next big idea!
People used to reach for the ketchup bottle with a little dread. Would they have to poke a knife up the bottle's neck to get the ketchup going? Would the first thing out of the container be a sneeze of watery juice? Those days are virtually over, and the liberation is especially worth celebrating around Independence Day, the year's peak holiday for ketchup. The condiment's founding fathers were East Asian spice exporters who sold British and Dutch traders something like Worcestershire sauce that they called “ketsiap”. That was in the 1600s. A century later, Nova Scotia farmers added surplus tomatoes and sugar to the mix. The rest is history. According to an industry survey, 96 percent of U.S. households keep ketchup on hand, more than have those who have salt and pepper. However, that does not necessarily mean thriving sales.
By the late '90s, in fact, with burgers and fries on the outs in a fat-phobic society, ketchup sales were flat. H.J. Heinz decided that the only way to sell more ketchup was to get people to eat more, which was easier said than done. It entailed solving all of the ketchup's consumer problems, especially the challenge of getting more ketchup out of the bottle faster. Also key would be overcoming people's reluctance to take all the ketchup they want.

The problem....

The answer....

Squeeze bottle
The result was the massive and much-loved upside-down ketchup bottle, emptying as fast and cleanly as a gas can at a NASCAR pit stop. “Ready when you are,” was Heinz's original slogan for it.
Except in restaurants that still use 14-ounce glass bottles, the new version ended the tyranny of know-it-alls who made the user hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle and tap it in some special place. It saved shirts and ties while liberating decent people from what humorist Dave Barry might call farting ketchup.
Ketchup's modern revolution began in 1991 in a small precision-molding shop wedged between a scrapyard and a saloon on the south side of Midland, Mich. The essential prop in the dingy scene was a molding press that meant to turn liquid silicone injections into flexible, one-piece precision valves. It was not working quite right, however. Paul Brown, the shop's stocky, bullheaded owner, spent his days sitting before the press on a four-legged stool, chain-smoking, and rethinking the valve's design. "I would pretend I was silicone and, if I was injected into a mold, what I would do," recalled Brown, a computer-phobic, intuition-guided shop technician. “I would pretend I was silicone and, if I was injected into a mold, what I would do,” recalled Brown, a computer-phobic, intuition-guided shop technician.
His vision was a dispensing valve for a new kind of shampoo bottle that would be storable upside down on, say, a tub's edge. The valve had to open easily when squeezed and shut securely when the squeezing stopped. No drips, no leaks ever. Brown, then 48, and his mold-maker, Tim Socier, who was deft at computer-assisted design, came up with a valve that was a small silicone dome with right-angled slits cut in its top. When pressing the bottle's sides, the dome's slits opened like flower petals and released the contents. When the pressing stopped, the air sucked back into the dome caused it to retract and the slits to shut.
Time was running out, however. Brown had maxed out his credit cards. He was in hock to his mother and ten investor-friends. None of his 111 prototypes worked. It was Friday night, and the first potential big buyer was due Monday. So Brown turned to Socier, then 31, who agreed to work through much of the night to craft one more design variant, thinning the dome around the slits. On Saturday morning, Socier called Brown in to show him something. It was the new prototype, and it worked perfectly. Brown sat back in his chair and said: "Holy cow, I just hit the jackpot." He was right. Moreover, the customer bought into the concept. Eventually, so did baby food-maker Gerber, which uses a version of the valve in its sippy cup. So did NASA when it needed a leak-proof drinking-water system for space-walking astronauts. So did shampoo and cosmetics makers. Years later, so did Heinz and Hunt's, Heinz's main competitor, for their top-down ketchup bottles. Brown sold out in 1995 for about $13 million. He paid off his investors 100-fold and built himself a “ barn that any man would kill for,” a complete with a knotty-pine wet bar. He bought a winter place in Key Largo, Fla., and an RV pad in Casa Grande, Ariz., for his Fifth Wheel. Read more here: Paul Brown
Brian Chesky, founder Airbnb speaking at the Start-Up Class. “I quit my job; I was living in LA. One day I drove to San Francisco, became roommates with my friend Joe Gebbia from the Rhode Island School of Design. I had one thousand dollars in the bank, and the rent was one thousand one hundred and fifty dollars. So that weekend this international design convention was coming to San Francisco, all the hotels were sold out, so we decided to turn the house into a bed and breakfast for the conference. I did not have a bed, and Joe had three air beds, we pulled them out of the closet and called it The Air Bed and Breakfast. That is how the company started. By solving our problem, it became a big idea.”
Steve Wozniak's problem was that he wanted his own computer. “That was an unusual problem to have in 1975. However, technological change was about to make it a much more common one. Because he not only wanted a computer but knew how to build them, Wozniak was able to make himself one. And the problem he solved for himself became one that Apple solved for millions of people in the coming years. But by the time it was obvious to ordinary people that this was a big market, Apple was already established.” reference: Paul Graham

Suboptimal equilibrium

Suboptimal equilibrium refers to a situation where the customer experiences a pain (or inconvenience) with the product/service and continues to engage in its use.
The customer may or may not be conscious about the existence of the pain, and the customer may view the situation as an acceptable inconvenience or a part of getting the job done. An innovator sees an opportunity of moving the equilibrium to a higher value proposition by addressing the pain.
Fat tape
For example, tape measures would kink when pulled out to make extended measurements. The pain was solved by adding a concave/convex shape to the tape. This flexible metal rule is coated with a plastic film, which is noticeable mainly because it is peeling away in places. A pain solved by coating the flexible metal with “linear polyester film, specifically polyethylene terephthalate, which has proven particularly suitable for this application.” retrieved from American Scientist the magazine of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society.


Brainstorming is a group creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem. Gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its members. Alex Faickney Osborn popularized the term in the 1953 book Applied Imagination. Generating ideas, sharing perspectives, and gaining stakeholder buy-in are lofty goals. To achieve them with brainstorming requires careful planning. This flow chart from Wikipedia provides a path for your Brainstorming activity. Using Edward de Bono's six hats methods will help the facilitator manage the process more effectively.
This Fast Company article, “A Designer’s Guide To Brainstorms That Are Actually Useful” provides more examples of the use of the techniques. They comment that it can be a little jarring to adopt a collaborative mindset—and hard to ramp up the energy level accordingly. The facilitator should spend a few minutes getting everyone acclimated. A part of the brainstrom process is to introduce the particapants to the idea that they should carefully observe the actions of product users.
In this video you find a number of examples of a phenomenon psychologists call inattentional blindness. “People are very limited in what they’re able to perceive in their visual world when they’re focused on one thing.” Leigh Thompson -Director of Kellogg Team and Group Research Center explains. “Coupled with the fact that people believe themselves to be in the 99th percentile with regard to their perceptive abilities, that’s a dangerous combination.”  “How to Do Design Thinking Better”
The first step in the design-thinking process is to observe a situation and notice what is actually happening. This sounds straightforward. But Thompson points out that we are actually really bad at observing a situation and noticing what is actually happening—despite having a lot of confidence in our own abilities. So how can we get better at noticing things? As Thompson   explains it, noticing is a cognitive strategy that can be broken down into three parts. First, observers must identify and abandon their cognitive scripts—the preexisting narratives that guide their understanding of situations. Next, they must learn inductively, making inferences based on limited information. And finally, they must find patterns in complex stimuli. This is why design thinkers must get out from behind their desks and observe a problem.

Great Products

A great product is the only way to grow long-term. Eventually, the company will get so big that all growth hacks stop working, and you have to grow by people wanting to use the product. This is the most important thing to understand about super-successful companies. There is no other way. Think about all of the successful technology companies — they all do this. You want to build a “product improvement engine” in your company. Talk to users and watch them use the product, figure out what parts are sub-par, and then make the product better.
You need a way to predict user satisfaction that lets you prioritize feature releases and re-evaluate existing features. You need hard data to support the decisions about what goes into your product and when. That is where the Kano Model comes in. Read this Muzli article published on Medium for an example using the Kano model. The purpose of the tool is to support product specification and discussion through better development of team understanding. Kano's model focuses on differentiating product features, as opposed to focusing initially on customer needs. Learn more on the use of Kano modeling at Wikipedia
“Understanding user motivations, daily habits, and patterns help to create insight that informs and inspires teams to create better solutions for people. Moreover, it does not only benefit designers, but it benefits the whole company. The most common learning gap for entrepreneurs is centered around the use of design research. Design research is all about understanding whom you are building for and what their needs are. With design research, we seek to understand ‘What are the users' behavioral patterns and motivations?’ and then ‘How can we anticipate their needs, solve problems for them, and build the experience in a way that fits with their workflow, mental models, and usage patterns?’ Companies do not invest enough in user research because they do not realize how important and useful it is.” The exercise of developing a customer journey map leads to insights on the customer. McKinsey - customer decisions.
Some Entrepreneurs have an opportunistic mindset that helps them identify gaps in the market. Realizing that there was an opportunity to rent air mattresses and scaling that idea to other people renting the house or a room to strangers leads to the creation of AirBnB. Steve Jobs dropped out of college but audited classes in calligraphy that taught him about typefaces. Paul Brown demonstrated a high degree of persistence and an ability to visualize the possible. Brown patented the single-bar facemask, not long after jury-rigging a lucite mask to protect his injured quarterback, Otto Graham. He developed a helmet-based radio communication system that would allow Brown, the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, to communicate with his quarterback during games.
Other Entrepreneurs display an enormous amount of grit and persistence in creating a solution to a problem. Dr. Brian J. Druker, an oncologist at Oregon Health and Sciences University and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator, was one of three winners of the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, often called the “American Nobel Prize.” for the development of molecularly targeted treatments for chronic myeloid leukemia, converting a fatal cancer into a manageable chronic condition. In a New York Times interview he was asked “Your friend Avice Meehan of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute says that you have the most amazing perseverance. Is that what it took to make Gleevec happen?” Dr. Druker replied, “There’s a basketball player who says, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. Well, I work hard. I understood that this project was too good to give up on. My patients needed me to do something to help them. I did everything I could by getting them a drug I thought would work.”
An idea can come from a group 'five why' problem-solving session or in-depth process deep dive using Kepner Tregoe tools. Or a serendipitous encounter created by an ecosystem designed by nature or created by an organization. The solution frequently involves hard work, grit, and perseverance.
Getting teams to generate a lot of great ideas is just the beginning. My experience has been that teams using several idea generating tools can generate a large number of ideas. Companies have a problem — what to do with good ideas once the team creates them. Employees who have been part of ideation sessions are often frustrated because nothing substantive happens with the ideas they generate. Successful innovation is the combination of great ideas with sustainable and profitable business models. The business model needs to pay-off in a time period determined by your companies finance department.