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Thanksgiving: Many Lessons in Innovation

I recently completed a fascinating article about the history of Thanksgiving in the U.S. Despite what you might think, the “first feast” was meager consisting of seafood, wild game, and raw pumpkin and cranberries. (Note the exclusion of fried turkey, pumpkin pie and cranberry relish.)

Another fun fact: forks didn’t exist. Historians have confirmed that our first Thanksgiving was eaten using the hands, a knife, and spoon. Could you imagine today’s meal without a fork?

As I read this historical account, it reminded me of several recent lessons that helped our clients achieve breakthrough ideas.

Thanks to the influence of Native Americans, Thanksgiving morphed into a livelier celebration with better tasting food. This reminded me of a recent project where our client group (the Pilgrims) needed inspiration from an outside group (The Native Americans.) For years, this manufacturer of baby gear predictably engaged new and expectant moms for ideas. To mix things up, we invited single men (with no kids) to generate ideas on simplifying the set-up and transport of baby gear. Not only was it amusing to see them struggle with a baby stroller, the design team left with many original ideas.

Now back to the fork. According to the history of Thanksgiving, the fork was not a popular utensil until the 18th century. It is amazing to think how something so simple made a profound impact on Thanksgiving and etiquette in general! This too, reminded me of a co-creation exercise with airplane painters where it was pointed out that most windows on airplanes are the same size. This one tidbit of information vastly simplified the design of a window-covering prototype.

Inspiration for innovation is everywhere.  We hope you have a great Thanksgiving and are truly grateful to you for choosing us as your research and innovation partner.  None of our achievements would have been possible without your unwavering support.

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