Business Models For Dummies
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Sometimes the best innovation for business is borrowing other people’s innovation. Howard Schultz got the idea for Starbucks while sitting in an Italian café. Plenty of creative product, fashion, and food ideas come from taking a proven product or concept from another area and transplanting it.

Here are some examples:

  • The Kit Kat bar, which was the idea of an employee, was originally launched in London and the South East in 1935. It was then brought to the U.S. where Hershey’s began to sell it in 1969.

  • The British hit series Pop Idol was copied and brought to the U.S. as American Idol.

  • The hamburger is an American invention that’s now sold around the world.

  • Italian immigrants in New York created many successful pizza restaurants.

  • Vitamin companies started selling fish oil tablets after discovering Eskimos had extremely low incidence of heart attack despite eating a fatty diet.

  • Payment by cellphone is expected to increase dramatically in the U.S. as a significant number of Asian countries have already adopted use of the technology.

  • Hospitals in India have adopted innovative medical practices that dramatically lower costs. For instance, doctors don’t interpret x-rays — professional x-ray interpreters do. These non-physicians do nothing but look at knee x-rays all day, and get paid a fraction of what a physician costs.

    Many professionals feel a trained technician who reads many more x-rays can do a better job than a doctor. It will be interesting to see whether a similar practice is adopted in the United States.

  • Ryanair has created a successful no-frills airline in Europe. Using the restroom is free, but Ryanair toyed with charging $2, as the airline charges for every add-on imaginable. The flights can cost half of the nearest competitor though.

    To date, no U.S. airline has copied Ryanair’s strategy, but it won’t be long until someone does. Ryanair is even considering free tickets and monetizing passengers via in-flight gambling and standup seating.

Whether you’re observing the latest Greenwich Village or Hollywood trend or a cool business practice from Asia, other cultures offer great innovative ideas for your business model.

Ignoring other cultures’ innovations and ideas can be dangerous for your business. For many years Volkswagen refused to put cup holders into the vehicles it sold in America. The folks at Volkswagen couldn’t understand why anyone would want one cup holder, let alone 15 of them.

Eventually, Volkswagen gave in to soda-guzzling American consumers and added cup holders. Why did Volkswagen give in? Simple. Americans refused to buy Volkswagen vehicles due to the lack of cup holders.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Jim Muehlhausen is the founder and President of the Business Model Institute as well as consultant and speaker to businesses large and small. He is the author of The 51 Fatal Business Errors and How to Avoid Them and a frequent contributor to Entrepreneur, Businessweek, and dozens of other publications.

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