In 1870, Josephine Cochran enjoyed a busy social life, and would host dinner parties for her friends from her home in Illinois. One night, she became upset as she watched her servants accidentally chip at the antique dining porcelain. Moreover, she was frustrated with how long the dish washing process took. She decided to take action and find a way to optimise.
Years later, Cochran invented the world’s first dishwasher. The invention was met with great success when it debuted at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, before it became popular with restaurants and hotels in Chicago.
Cochran devoted her life to developing a product that solved a particular problem, and this model for innovation has withstood the test of time. Great businesses sell products that solve their customers’ pain. The reasoning behind this model for success is psychological. Humans, on a rudimentary level, are motivated by two things – the need to eliminate pain, and the desire to pursue pleasure. In The Psychology of Selling, Brian Tracy outlines how consumers are doubly motivated to prioritise the elimination of pain over the pursuit of happiness. If a customer encounters a product or service that soothes a pain, they are much more likely to buy it over just gaining pleasure, as their brain views the acquisition of the product as a need rather than a want. Additionally, due to the pressing nature of the issue, consumers will pay more for a product if it solves a problem.
The most successful companies use this model for innovation. Take Venmo for instance, who provided clients with a quick and easy way to transfer money without the need of a card reader, or the bureaucracy of electronic transfer.
Rebel entrepreneurs develop products based on this model. They pay attention to market saturation, and they understand that if they develop just another hair dryer they are unlikely to strike a chord with their consumer. However, if they work on a product that aims to make the lives of others easier, simpler or less painful, their business is more likely to scale.
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