Innovation as connection, not creation

On the long plane journey back from Moscow last Friday I was so bored I read the BA in-flight magazine from cover to cover. But it paid off, as I read a fascinating article about the founder of Geox shoes, Mario Moretti Polegato. My daughters each have a pair of their trainers, which have special technology that allows your feet to "breathe". Sweat is allowed out (yuch) but rain is not allowed in. Clever. I got several lessons from the article.


Lesson 1: solve personal problems
Polegato came up for the idea when out walking in Nevada. He was visiting the place to flog not shoes, but wine. At the time he was bottling wine from the Treviso region of Italy. His feet were sweaty and uncomfortable, and this triggered an idea….

Lesson 2: prototype, on the cheap
Polegatto didn’t react in the ay many marketers would, by doing a Powerpoint presentation. Instead, he took his shoes off and cut holes in the soles! This solved the sweat problem, but left him with blisters.

Lesson 3: connect to innovate
In search of a better way to solve his problem, Polegatto found researchers at an Italian university who were working on a mebrane to manage water transfer. He then got some assistance in footwear design from a small ski-boot company. The connection of these two sources of expertise with his clever idea is what created the Geox shoe.

The business now has sales of £266 million, and Mr Polegatto is on Forbes list of the world’s 300 richest people. Not bad eh for an idea that started with cutting holes in his shoes?
So, next time you’re searching in vain for a breakthrough idea, have a go at following the Geox method instead, of identifying a problem and making new connections to solve it.