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The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

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Framing problems to help solve them

One way to creatively describe a challenge is to compare it to another kind of challenge that's been solved. Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit (makers of Quicken and QuickBooks software), felt that the problem to solve wasn't making good accounting software, but something else entirely: "The greatest competitor… was not in the industry. It was the pencil. The pencil is a tough and resilient substitute. Yet the entire industry had overlooked it." [153] He creatively framed the problem and shifted the perspective of his team to find a better solution than pencil and paper. Even if his competition had more talented problem solvers, engineers, or designers, his creative framing of the problem gave him an advantage. Anyone can use Cook's basic framing strategy; by choosing a powerful reference (the pencil), and framing the challenge around it (sell software), he created opportunities before he wrote a line of code.

This pattern is everywhere in the history of innovation, but it's often hidden behind tales of brilliance and breakthrough solutions. As a test, follow the trail of any successful innovation far back enough, and odds are high that you'll find a creatively framed problem behind it. While Edison is heralded for the lightbulb, he was late to the party: dozens of other inventors were trying well before he began. His success came from defining the challenge differently. He thought of the lightbulb as a system, asking questions like, "How do you ...

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