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Business Innovation and the “mousetraps” that are ignored…

Mousetrap - Metaphor for business innovation

You’ve probably heard the quote “build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door” but you might not realise that this expression emerged in the late 1800s. It is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and it’s actually believed to be a mis-quote, although the essence of the statement is correct.

A lot has changed since the 1800s, but it seems this simple statement has entered our collective consciousness as a metaphor for modernisation, improvement and innovation. This statement is used to challenge the status quo and progress exciting product development strategies. Such healthy challenge should be encouraged, right?

Well – possibly. Whilst innovation can be an incredibly positive thing for businesses, it’s extremely important that business leaders foster the right sort of innovation for the right reasons.


Ask yourself this:  If a better mousetrap was launched tomorrow, would you go and buy it? 


Your answer is likely to be a resounding “no”, and there are some very compelling and logical reasons for this. After all, a new mousetrap is probably:

  • Trying to solve a problem you don’t have
  • Attempting to replace a simple and elegant design that works well already
  • Attempting to solve a problem that would be avoided in the first place (e.g. by plugging holes in skirting boards etc.)

The reality is that however good a new mouse-trap is, you’d probably ignore it. And not only that, in the crowded clutter of the media space today, you probably wouldn’t even hear about it. 


The importance of the “problem domain”

So how should business and product innovation work?  It needs to start with a thorough and detailed understanding of the customer’s problem, the area that it sometimes known as the “problem space” or “problem domain”.  By understanding the problem you are trying to solve ensures that you can create value for the customer.  Once you know which customer groups you are targeting and which customer needs you are satisfying it becomes much easier to create a compelling value propositionYou can tailor the features and benefits that you promote to each segment, and this becomes a useful input into your marketing strategy.

True, useful, innovation starts with a thorough understanding of the business environment, the market and the problem—and some time regularly reflecting on this is time well spent.



Innovation can be hard and sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can help.  At Blackmetric we offer tailored solutions for businesses like yours.  Our services include:

Business Model Innovation   |   Facilitation for creative innovation workshops   

  Training   |Business Consulting

 For an informal discussion about your needs, contact us today:


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