There is a vast order in the universe. Every time I throw a coin in the air, it returns and hits the floor. Because there .a vast order, things can be separated and understood. When NASA sends up four rockets one-half second apart, their afterimages are approximately simultaneous. We can say that we see four rockets “at the same time.” This is the illustration of simultaneity. To see order, we attempt to comprehend spontaneously things that are non spontaneous.

In the Ponzo figure below, the two horizontal lines are the same length, yet the top one appears to be longer.

ponzo This is known as the Ponzo illusion and is explained by the fact that we attempt to comprehend the image as a whole and are led by our experiences to see the vertical lines as if they were railroad tracks receding in the distance. The only way to comprehend what is really there is to examine each line individually, as a separate “event.”

The universe of business is also composed of separate events, yet we say things like “that is a good business” or “that market is solid,” as though all of the events were appearing as a singular entity at the same time. To find opportunities, you need to look at the separate events that make up the universe of business and understand their relationships. An Idea Grid is designed to let you do just that.


fcb grid (2)                                         

The basic grid is a powerful tool that enables one to compress large amounts of complex information. It was first developed by advertising programs to analyze markets and find new opportunities.

HIGH INVOLVEMENT: represents perceptions of expensive products such as cars and boats.

LOW INVOLVEMENT: represents less costly products such as ordinary household products.

THINK: represents verbal, numerical, analytic, cognitive products for which the consumer desired information and data. For example, automobiles, boats, computers, cameras, and so on.

FEEL: represents products that appeal to a consumer’s emotional needs and desires, such as travel, beauty, cosmetics, and so on.


fcbgrid.filler (2)


You place your product on the grid by researching both the product and its potential market. For instance, life insurance would fall in the High/Left quadrant, liquid house-cleaner in the Low/Left, and greeting cards in the Low/Right quadrant.

Once the product is placed, you have a powerful basis for generating ideas. You can read and understand the grid immediately because the visual language used in placement is intuitively understood. It’s like seeing the ocean for the first time: You learn as much about the vastness of the ocean from your first moment’s glance as you would in a month of study.

The Idea Grid allows you to:

When using grids, keep your analysis simple, clear, and expressible in only a few lines. If your grid is elaborate and takes a lot of time to communicate, it will lose its meaning. Think of the grid as a piece of rope which takes on meaning only in connection with the things it holds together.

Using the Grid to get Ideas. People think of a balloon as a continuous solid skin that holds air. But if you look at the skin of a balloon with a microscope, you’ll find that it is not continuous at all; it is full of holes. The balloon is a kind of net in which the holes are so small that the air molecules cannot get out. There is, in fact, no such thing as a continuous solid skin, or a “solid” or “continuous” anything in the universe.

So there certainly can be no such thing as a “solid” company, or a market with no holes, or a “solid” anything in business. One way to get new ideas is to locate the holes in a market, an industry, or a business. The Idea Grid makes this easy.

A major publisher was confronted with the challenge: “In what ways might we publish a unique book on gardening for children ages four to twelve?” He first researched six major publishing firms in the usual ways—surveys, questionnaires, sales records, and so on—and discovered that the major books on gardening for children were, basically, reasonably priced, straight-forward, well-illustrated instructional books.

He drew a grid and placed all six in various levels in the Low/Left quadrant as low involvement, thinking books. He studied the grid and determined that his basic choices were:

Low/Left quadrant: He could position his book against the existing books as a low involvement, thinking book.

High/Left quadrant: He could create a high involvement, thinking book, such as an encyclopedia or other reference book.

High/Right quadrant: He could create a high involvement, feeling book. Examples of this might include art books and books packaged with fairly expensive objects.

Low/Right quadrant: He could create a low involvement, feeling book, such as a coloring book or a book packaged with less expensive objects.

The publisher surveyed all the options and decided to focus on the Low/Right quadrant. Using the grid to look for holes in the market, he found the idea he was looking for, floating like a flower in a bowl.

The idea: A coloring book titled Growing Vegetable Soup. The book describes a delicious vegetable soup, then leads the reader through the actual work: planting the seeds, watering, weeding, and digging up the vegetables, and finally making the soup and eating it. The book was a bestseller.

Using the Grid to Apply Ideas. A new idea usually requires imagination and effort to get results. For instance, the essence of competition is differentiation; creating something better than and different from the competition. However, sometimes even an obvious functional difference doesn’t sell unless you look for an imaginative application.

Look at Apple Computers. There unbelievable success not because of the product’s small size or low price. After all, why would anybody buy a sophisticated piece of hardware that looked like a child’s toy from some unknown company? There was no way Apple could claim superiority over IBM, Digital Equipment, Data General, or Prime, especially given the horror stories about the computer market at that time. Instead, Apple provided an imaginative application of their idea.

First, they graphed the computer environment as above. Apple’s genius was to avoid positioning themselves with the crowded cluster of giant competitors in the High/Left quadrant. Challenging these giants in their own quadrant would have been like challenging a school of piranhas to a game of water polo. They avoided that position by not calling themselves a minicomputer or a micro-minicomputer. They did something different. They positioned themselves in the Low/Right quadrant as far away as possible from the giants and developed a marketing and advertising strategy that emphasized:

  • A new and entirely different computer intended for the average person rather than computer experts.
  • The term “personal computer” as opposed to minicomputer.
  • Being part of a whole new generation of computers.
  • Being user-friendly.

Apple went after the Low/Right quadrant—an enormous risk at the time. Was there really a market for a toy-like personal computer for the average person? There was. By using imagination in positioning their idea, the founders made billions as they captured the market they saw on the grid.

The grid helps you navigate the tricky seas of the marketplace. The waters are neither dull nor pretty, but a code that needs interpretation. The grid tells you everything or nothing, depending on how you read it. Make the right soundings, and patterns will emerge like a safe harbor out of the mist.


Learn more about MICHAEL MICHALKO and his expertise in creative thinking.





















































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