In business, sometimes you have to do things a little differently from the rest to achieve success. The four examples below showcase company owners who have gained impressive results by fully embracing this idea and thinking outside the box.
Cardboard computers: Brenden Macaluso, Recompute
One could argue that a PC made of cardboard is quite literally thinking inside the box. Joking aside though, this really is quite an impressively original concept for something that seems so obvious. Recompute claims to produce sustainable computers by addressing three stages in the life cycle of the product; manufacturing, usage and disposal.
Recompute founder Brenden Macaluso designed his PCs to use materials that are less harmful to the environment than the industry standard – for example non-toxic flame retardant, and corrugated cardboard where most use petroleum-based plastics. The computers are also designed to have a longer useful life, meaning they have to be replaced less frequently. And the assembly methods and materials used to make them mean that when they finally do give up the ghost, they’re easy to recycle. This is not the case with the average personal computer – in fact, according to Recompute, only 14% of the PCs disposed of in the US are recycled.
Macaluso clearly put a lot of thought into this whole process, addressing a problem that is widespread due to the ubiquity of personal computers. For that, he deserves a lot of credit.
Sleeping (and meditating) at work: Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post
Arianna Huffington, former President of the Huffington Post Media Group, has an unconventional approach to getting the best out of her employees. Most employers would probably see the idea of encouraging staff to take time out to sleep and do relaxing activities as a counter-productive move, but Huffington did just that, with phenomenal results.
Most of us can probably agree that embracing the well-being of employees is a great way to get them working well, but not everyone would take it to the extent of creating nap rooms at the office. Huffington’s motto is ‘unplug, recharge, and sleep’, and she got impressive results out of her charges by taking this concept seriously – not only did she allow her employees at the Huffington Post to take naps when they wanted to, but she also introduced meditation, yoga, relaxation classes and healthy snacks.
By getting the best work out of her staff by encouraging them not to work (at least, not all of the time), Arianna Huffington has shown herself to be a truly brilliant outside of the box thinker.
- ‘Fistbump Freddy’: Matt Martin, Retro Mountain
When it comes to making a statement with your marketing, we all know that a publicity stunt can work wonders – Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary showed that he’s no stranger to this concept when he dressed up as the pope to promote his airline’s route to Rome. But despite the fact that this seems to be common knowledge, making an impact is not necessarily as easy as simply doing something silly in public.
That’s why the success of Retro Mountain, a producer of ski wear with old-fashioned styles, demonstrates an impressive understanding of how doing something unusual can really work. Using an unconventional ’employee’ called Fistbump Freddy and a car to gain publicity around London turned out to be just what was needed to generate awareness and give Retro Mountain an initial sales boost to help the company get established. This is not the only wacky idea that has had the desired effect, which Managing Director Matt Martin puts down to being bold and trying out different things without fear.
Martin explains more in this video:
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Premium electric cars: Elon Musk, Tesla
Another businessperson who has entered an already crowded and competitive market with something completely new and possibly slightly counter-intuitive is Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Sure, the idea of an electric car is nothing new, but they’ve remained on the fringes because while the idea is noble from an ecological viewpoint, they’re seen as the poor cousins of their gas-guzzling counterparts in terms of style and practicality.
Musk realised (and apparently no one else did, which is what makes this so brilliant) that by giving electric cars a premium quality feel, he could have them competing with the top car brands. As a result, reports last year claimed that Tesla sedans were outselling similar vehicles from other luxury car brands, including Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Porsche and Jaguar.
It’s also worth noting that Tesla produces more than just cars. The company is making bold promises about its future plans, and Elon Musk is known as a first-rate innovator – so it might just be worth watching out to see what Tesla does next.
Go on, give it a go
Thinking outside the box in business is not an exact science. You can never really know whether an initiative will work until you try it – and we could easily have given at least as many examples of businesses for whom trying something new went horribly wrong.
However, a thing that all the above people have in common is the courage to try something they believed in – so if you believe that your idea will work, even if it’s not conventional, be brave and put your money where your mouth is. You might just make it onto our next list of business success stories.