by Gijs van Wulfen

What do you do when you sell expensive products online, and they arrive at your customers damaged? You have to come up with a brilliant idea. Check it out.

Products getting damaged while being shipped, was a real challenge for Dutch bicycle manufacturer VanMoof, ‘the Tesla of Bikes’. They manufacture street bikes that are at the high-end of the market, equipped with lots of electronics. Have a look at their amazing electrified bikes in this video.

VanMoof was started by two Dutch brothers, Taco and Ties Carlier, who wanted to develop the kinds of bikes that got people from A to B, without the fuss. For some reason their bicycles, shipped in big cardboard boxes, were getting dropped and damaged by their shipping companies.

The damage reports were a major problem for VanMoof. And they came up with a brilliant solution. What did they do? Instead of putting a picture of a bike on the box they printed a picture of a large flatscreen TV instead. Now their shippers thought that they were transporting flatscreen televisions, and nobody wants to damage a new really big television. Instantaneously “the shipping damage to our bikes dropped by 70-80 percent” said Bex Radford, the creative director of VanMoof in Cycling Weekly.

The idea originated from one of the co-founders of VanMoof: “Earlier this year our co-founder Ties had a flash of genius. Our boxes are about the same size as a (really really reaaaally massive) flatscreen television. Flatscreen televisions always arrive in perfect condition. What if we just printed a flatscreen television on the side of our boxes? And just like that, shipping damage to our bikes dropped by 70–80%.”

I really love this idea of VanMoof. I hope it inspires you to get new brilliant ideas too, as in my opinion, everyone of us has the potential of becoming a creative thinker. The secret to get a big idea is quite simple: don’t accept the status quo, defer your judgment and stop thinking. Let me explain.

1. Don’t accept the status quo.

When you fully accept the status quo at work or in your personal life nothing will change. There’s a wonderful quote of George Bernard Shaw: The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. Innovation often starts with something that annoys you personally and is relevant for you. like the damage reports for VanMoof. Something you personally really want to change, because you need to. It’s the WHY for innovation. Your personal motive to move beyond your borders must be strong because, especially when you’re innovating within a large organization, it is going to be a long bumpy road.

2. Defer your judgement.

When someone brings up a new idea, there will always be a lot of no’s crossing your mind immediately:

  • No, we have done it always this way…
  • No, it’s not possible…
  • No, it might work in other places but not here…
  • No,…

It’s impossible for you to be creative and judgmental at the same time. Minds are like parachutes; they work best when open. [T. Dewar]. So for you to open your mind and look for new opportunities, you must defer your judgement. Great ideas seem absurd at first sight, because they are not normal. Of course they are not normal otherwise it wouldn’t be innovative.

3. Stop thinking.

Let’s take a look at our personal life. You remember for sure some AHA moments; those moments when a great idea popped up in your head. Interesting is when did this happen? When I ask this question to audiences in my speeches all over the world I get answers like:

  • When I am jogging.
  • Driving my car.
  • Doing nothing.
  • When I wake up.
  • Under the shower.
  • “On the throne”.

What is most striking that hardly anyone ever says “in a brainstorm” or “at my desk”. It seems that if we do something automatically and STOP thinking, our best ideas pop into our minds. In my profession this is called incubation. It is defined as “a process of unconscious recombination of thought elements that were stimulated through conscious work at one point in time, resulting in novel ideas at some later point in time”. That explains why your best Ideas will pop up automatically when you’re not thinking.

So my advice to you to get big ideas is: don’t accept the status quo, defer your judgment and stop thinking. I am sure great innovative ideas will pop up sooner or later, like printing a picture of a large flatscreen TV instead of a bike. Is it that simple? Yes, it’s that simple. Just, try it!



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