It’s easy to get stuck while hunting for new product ideas. Perhaps the ideas generated don’t seem new enough, more like revisions to current products than major breakthroughs.

One technique we’ve found works well in helping to get you unstuck is to reframe the problem you’re trying to solve.

For example, if I’m in the business of making door handles and find myself just coming up with incremental changes like color, size, material …. try reframing the problem. Instead of “what are some new ideas for door handles?”, how about “how might we open doors?

If I’m in the hifi speaker business, instead of “what are some new product ideas for speakers?”, how about “how might we experience sound?

Back in the 19th century, a stenographer who asked “how can I record sound?” subsequently invented the first sound-recording device, the “phonoautogram”, which made impressions on smoke blackened paper. But there was no playback. You had to be trained to read the symbols to interpret the sound. It took a further 20 years before playback was invented. If he’d asked “how might we experience sound”, perhaps we wouldn’t have had to wait those 20 years to hear the sound replayed!

Here’s a tip on reframing your problem that works in many situations … ask yourself “what is the purpose of the [door handle/speaker]”. Then phrase your question “how might we (insert purpose of the [door handle/speaker])”. It’ll help you broaden the set of ideas you come up with.

You’ll find you get bigger, more innovative ideas. Some will be ridiculous, some will be fairy tales, but some will be gems you’d never have found before.