It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond

A quick visit to a recent past: Part 3 by Nheeda Enriquez

I’m off traveling for a week, so I wanted to take this opportunity to revisit three “timeless” posts on broader innovation topics.  The third is about how we might tackle an unusual constraint and make it work for us.



Innovating restaurant menus
May 13, 2009

courtesy of cleveland.comphoto via

Contrary to popular belief, innovation actually loves extreme constraint.  This economic downturn is an example of one, and many new companies were borne out of a recession.  New business owners find compelling needs to fill, and they recognize that they must survive or die in challenging times.  Starutps learn to fail and adjust quickly, adapting in ways that may not have been considered before.

New regulations are another type of constraint that force companies to innovate (whether or not they agree with it.)  I’m in NYC this week, and I am reminded of a law instituted last year mandating restaurants to post the number of calories of each of their menu items.   I’ve heard anecdotes of some restaurants changing recipes in order to keep the interest of customers with their newfound awareness of caloric content.

It also reminds me of a story I heard about Charlotte’s own Ratcliffe on the Green delivering more value to attract customers that now carry lighter wallets.  Instead of sacrificing on the quality of their local ingredients, they’ve switched to a Brasserie-style menu, an interesting paradigm-shift that I hope to taste soon.

Bernie Madoff: Using extreme constraints to find ideas by Nheeda Enriquez
original photo source: sf gate

original photo source: sf gate

The recent Madoff sentencing has left many scratching their heads, questioning “How is it possible to for a 71 year old man serve a 150 year sentence?!”  Some agree that it’s merely gesture to illustrate the severity of the crime, but it also presents the opportunity to ask >> What if…?

I advocate the use of extreme constraints as a tool for ideation, because they force new ways to think about a problem and get us beyond the obvious or incremental solution.  Clearly, Mr. Madoff’s punishment will outlive him, but if we allow ourselves to get crazy for a second, how might we find an alternative means to serve a full sentence?

  • Keep his clones in jail
  • Break up the sentence into lots of little segments and find a way to distribute the punishment to co-conspirators
  • Make him conduct random acts of kindness to pay it forward, a la Akoha cards
  • Make him spend a majority of his time doing work that will certainly pay benefits over time, like plant 1000 trees by hand
  • Force him to start an investment fund for one of his least favorite charity, a la stickK, and let others contribute to it

These become the kernels of a larger solution that others can build upon.  What other ideas are out there?