Ketchup and Innovation

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There's a common misconception that innovations have to be ground-breaking, mind-bending, and earth-shattering in order to qualify as "true" innovations. Well, it turns out that innovations can come in all sizes and shapes!

If you're a video person, I lay it all out in the video below. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!

Today i want to clear up one of the big misconceptions about innovation and it's this: that only the big innovations count. You know, like if you if you didn't invent the iPhone then it doesn't really count. If you didn't invent the Tesla or the internet then you're not really an innovator.

And I want to clear that up because innovation is really all about solving problems, and you and I both know that problems come in all sizes and shapes. There are big problems, there are little problems.

I'll give you an example. You're too young to remember this, but prior to 2002 none of us had ever tasted ketchup. It's true, and i'll tell you why.

Because prior to 2002, ketchup was grown in glass bottles like this. It looked really pretty, but there was no way to get into this bottle! If you were born before 2002 you know what i'm talking about! There was no way to get it.

Oh we tried. We tried pounding it, we tried this little trick here, and yeah we tried shaking it, but it never worked. We never actually got to the ketchup. We never tasted ketchup.

We all had it. We all had a bottle of this in our pantry, but mostly as a fashion statement. You know, a little splash of red next to the rice. So we never actually tasted ketchup, and this went on for 177 years.

For 177 years ketchup came in bottles, and so for 177 years every time somebody tried to pour ketchup it was like, "Oh!" — a problem. And then finally in 2002 some smart person at Heinz came up with a brilliant idea!

He said, "Uh, hey, you know them ketchup bottles we have that everybody hates? What if — now stay with me on this — what if we turned them upside down?"

And now how do we get ketchup? Like this! You go to the grocery store, this is how you get ketchup now — in an upside can't even find this anymore! I had to actually order this on Amazon! I couldn't find it in my grocery store, and when i ordered it on Amazon, it said "Order quickly, only two left." This is an endangered species! This is the white rhino of condiments! I'm never selling this!

I mean, look at that! Is that rocket science? No! Could you have come up with that? Sure, you could have!

What's the difference? Somebody saw the problem and said, "Oh, how can i fix it?"

For 177 years, nobody did that. But then finally somebody said, "Hey, how can I fix the problem? Let's just turn the bottle upside down!"

Is that inventing the iPhone? No! Is it inventing the internet? No! It's turning a flippin bottle upside down. It's flipping a bottle upside down.

You can do that! We can all be innovators. All it takes to be an innovator is looking at a situation that's bugging you, or a situation that's a problem, and thinking to yourself, "How can i make this better?" Come up with a solution — that's being an innovator!


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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