Imagine two managers who are responsible for product development and innovation management in their companies. One of these managers has a so-called “linear” thinking style. This means that he approaches idea generation and idea development with conventional methods. The other is a lateral thinker looking for unusual ideas from which radical innovation could emerge. Both managers want to launch a new fruit juice on the market. They’re both looking for the right mix. The lateral thinker considers using a novel type of fruit and tests it with consumers. The first reactions are rather disappointing.
“It’s not very juicy. And not very refreshing either.”
“Well, they don’t taste that good with raw food.”
None of the consumers surveyed would like to buy the type of fruit from which the unconventional thinker would like to produce a new lemonade. The interviewers keep asking.
“Would you be interested in anything that tastes like this fruit? Like a soft drink?”
“I wouldn’t buy it.”
“There are fruits that are more suitable.”
The fruit isn’t even beautiful: Like “an ugly apple,” judges a consumer. “Reminds me a little of my first car. With the bumps and all.”
The vertically thinking manager approaches the surveys differently. In a representative sample, he examines which fruit varieties meet with the greatest approval. “Strawberries,” most respondents say. Cherries and bananas also find approval.
What does a reasonable manager do in this situation? Probably what the majority of vertically thinking managers would do. They would never put the new fruit variety on the market. Instead, they bet on fruit varieties that people like. Like strawberry, cherry or banana.