I generally work on writing my books in spurts and Christmas/January is one of those periods each year. I hope to finish my second book by the end of January. This book deals with social entrepreneurship and lessons learned from One Laptop per Child. My first book dealt with business models in entrepreneurship (reminder: a great choice for Christmas gifts for your 100 closest friends). An odd thing happens to me whenever I am getting toward the end of a book--I come up with the idea for the next book. The remainder of this post deals with the concept of my third book.
For the last five years I have taught entrepreneurship at FIU and each year I try to improve the course. My efforts for improvement always focus on the beginning of the process and formulating the new business concept. I have become a dedicated student of creativity, innovation and design as a consequence of what is now a near obsession with better understanding innovation. Talking with a friend recently I realized that I was effectively trying to teach my students to be geniuses--probably too lofty a goal. However, in this quest I developed a way to help the students develop creative new business ideas. This approach is easy to understand and many students have tried to use the approach. This is in contrast to many other pedagogical devices to teach innovation which the students barely understood and never tried to use.
The method works equally well for problem solving and to develop innovative ideas. The simple method is called "relax the assumption". Identify the key constraint in a problem or product and relax it. For example, relax the key color assumption about Henry Ford's black Model T and several new businesses come to mind--custom colors, custom car painting, car accessories, maybe even garages. Another example: software applications resident on PCs. Relax the assumption about the app resident on the computer and you might get cloud computing, software-as-a-service, video distribution, browser-based applications, etc. In my experience the harder the problem the better this technique works. I also have some examples of this approach used by famous entrepreneurs.
Now this idea may appear so simple that you wonder how I could write a book about it. First I write short books :) Second there are some great thinkers whose ideas I put together to arrive at this simple method. Working at OLPC also helped with the evolution of this technique. Those MIT people inspire one.
A previous post on a related subject is here. Comments welcome.