This dad built a $10m business by re-imaging the bike

striderThis is a brilliant example of Innovation through subtraction.

This is Ryan McFarland who, like (hopefully) all Dads bought his Son a kids bike to learn to ride. His enthusiasm quickly turned to frustration as he watched his 2 year old “struggle with the weight and complexity of these so-called ‘children’s bikes”. So what did he do? He took away the pedals!

The genius isn’t the design – he’s actually massively simplified the design. The genius is that he dared to consider that he could improve something that has been around for centuries, and, while countless innovators have been busy improving the bike by adding features, Ryan had the audacity to subtract one (very important) feature – the pedals.

Innovation through subtraction can be applied to pretty anything – in this case a product but it could be a service or business model.

Take a moment to think about your organisation’s product or service. List all the things that it comprises then one by one, subtract each one and ask what the difference would be. Could subtraction;

– Change the customer experience in a positive way (would it be easier to use, more distinctive, more novel or fun)?

– Does it / could it help define a competitive advantage / act as a differentiator?

– Does it remove cost that will make you more money or allow you to be more competitive?

Another fantastic example of this is the restaurant chain Nandos. If you think about the normal customer journey at a restaurant; the customer is greeted, they are led to a table, given a menu of choices whilst drinks are ordered, the server takes you meal choices and takes it to kitchen where is joins a queue, a chef cooks the meal choices to the best of their abilities, a server brings your food when all of the meal choices have been cooked, you eat, the server takes the empty plates and gives you a bill.

The genius of Nandos is that they took that generic process and subtracted elements. The customer is greeted and shown to a table and given a menu, but you then queue to order at the kitchen so they have subtracted the need for a server to take your order. They then subtracted, to a great extent, choice meaning the chefs don’t need to think about cooking a range of things that have different cooking times, they just need to focuss on one thing and one thing only, cooking a stream of delicious chicken.

So if we go back to our checklist, does subtraction;

– Change the customer experience in a positive way? Firstly by removing the need for the server to take the order the customers go at their pace rather than the pace at which the server wants and by limiting the choice to chicken (for as long as the customer likes chicken) the customer gets brilliant food at a competitive price

– Does it / could it help define a competitive advantage / act as a differentiator? Yes. Not only is it fantastically popular and profitable, its ‘differentness’ makes for customer loyalty that is, in my opinion unrivalled amongst other multiples in the UK

– Does it remove cost that will make you more money or allow you to be more competitive? Yes. It’s much more competitively priced

If you want some help applying this approach to your organisation, contact me.