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Oh, Well

These consumer paradoxes tug at us every day, so often that we don't even consciously notice them. Every decision we come to, every action we take, requires a trade-off. We spend our mental energy sorting through alternatives, doing 'lesser-of-two-evils' balancing. Most paradoxical situations are shrugged off with 'oh, well'-that's the way it is; life isn't perfect; you can't always get what you want. Mostly, we choose to complain rather than create.

The vending machines on campus stock only candy and chips, but what the students need and want are fresh fruits and veggies and low-cal protein. Oh, well.

Babies scream on airplanes when business travelers want peace. Oh, well.

A challenging career demands the investment of time, as does a satisfying home and family life. Oh, well.

Paradox exists at many levels, from the product-focused ('I want a shiny, waxed floor, but I don't want to spend the time and energy to remove the old wax first') to the spiritual/psychological ('I want to be passively entertained, and I want to be spiritually nourished'-thank you, Oprah Winfrey).

In other words, it is the intersection of needs that creates potential energy and the possibility of creating an interesting resolution to a problem. If you simply identify a need as a flat statement ('People want to be healthy')-well, that leaves a thousand directions open and has little energy. There is no particular option to home in on, and there is not enough grist for the idea mill.

However, if you think of the issue as 'People want to be healthy, but they don't want to change any of their habits,' that ripens and focuses the challenge. If you imagine these desires as arrows moving perpendicular to each other, the point of intersection is where the potential energy lies. Starting there, you can begin thinking of a solution that solves the problem in each direction.

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Consumers are dealing with perpendicular arrows in every area of life-holding onto conflicting desires or expectations or demands simultaneously. Products that make a real impact on the marketplace don't just resolve tensions and conflicts, they resolve those tensions and conflicts in a unique way. A high-voltage idea releases the potential energy, and there are sparks, light, and heat.


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