Remember when a camera was something you used to take pictures of other people, not selfies? When a phone was used for talking, not reading and writing (or, should I say, “following” and “posting”)? Then the concept was flipped 180 degrees, and a whole new market was created for phones with bi-directional cameras and full keyboards. Today we’re going to look at three brands that made this year’s Inc. 500 list of America’s Fasting Growing Private Companies and how they employed this “180 Flip” approach to innovation.
NABI: Because your kid needs to spend more time staring at a screen
While many parents are asking how to get their kids off video games and other brain-melting tablet apps, Fuhu flipped the question and asked “How can we build a tablet that parents will want kids to turn on?” The Nabi tablet is a full-featured Android tablet with a kid-friendly user interface, pre-loaded content that includes e-books and educational games, a kid-appropriate app store, and a big red rubber frame to protect the device from rough handling. Standard apps like Chore List help teach kids to make good choices and earn rewards, while the proprietary Wings adaptive learning system teaches math and reading fundamentals for pre-k through 6th grade. Parental dashboards let moms and dads set screen-time limits, control kids’ access to content, and view reports on the child’s educational progress in Wings.
Idea lift:Ask questions like, What is the biggest downside of this product? and What do some buyers dislike most about this product? Then explore how you can 180 Flip that “downer” into an “upper.”
AQUAFARM: Give a pet a job, and grow a garden without the dirt
No, we’re not talking about manure – well, at least not in the way you’re probably thinking. Back to the Roots came up with a unique system that combines the best parts of fish ownership and gardening while reducing the hassles. The Aquafarm is described as a self-cleaning fish tank that grows food. The 3-gallon tank (large enough for a single betta fish) with a rooftop herb garden is designed as a complete ecosystem in which the fish waste feeds the plants and the plants clean the water.
Idea lift:What are the necessary inputs for your product, and what are the outputs or waste from using your product? Could you create a new product by packaging your existing product with all of the necessary inputs, or by incorporating some new way to utilize your product’s outputs or waste?
TURTLE SHELL: When earbuds are not the solution to everything, and the indoors go out
We’ve cycled from the public boom box to personal earbuds and back to public music sharing, this time in two-part harmony using a smartphone connected wirelessly to speakers. But the extreme sports-loving Millennials demand a little different specs than your 1980 boom box. Enter the Turtle Shell, a wireless speaker from Outdoor Technology that can survive water, shock, and dust; stream music from a source up to 32 feet away; and run for 16 hours on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The Turtle Shell even has a built-in microphone so it can be used as a speakerphone for multi-person phone calls. More importantly (at least for the purpose of this story), the exterior appearance of the Turtle Shell is as unique as its interior technology. Most speakers look like a pair of shoe boxes with pin holes, which is fine for use in a typical box-shaped room, but not so appropriate for outdoor, on-the-go use. Instead, the Turtle Shell is a one-piece design shaped by a series of triangular panels, providing omnidirectional sound.
Idea lift: Is your product used in more than one location? How could you create a variation that will work in an extremely different or opposite location? If your product’s main use is really personal and private, how could you make a 180 Flip and design a version that’s multi-user or public?
So now you know the innovation secret behind some of America’s fastest-growing companies: the 180 Flip.