In 2010, the best-selling author, Matt Ridley did a Ted talk from Oxford, England.
His topic was Idea Sex. He illustrated how humans are the only species on the planet that becomes more prosperous as the population grows.
The reason? Idea sex. Humans build on other people’s ideas to make something new.
James Altucher then popularised the term.
In his blog, he used this story which highlights idea sex perfectly.
Stan Weston had an idea. He knew that girls loved dolls but there was nothing for boys.
He knew that boys loved action and playing soldiers with their friends.
He combined dolls + action to create a figure that he called G.I Joe.
He showed it to Hasbro who offered him a license which meant he would get a royalty of every sale.
Or they would buy him out for $100,000.
Stan went for the latter. $100k was a lot of money in the 1960s. It’s a decent whack of cash today to be fair.
Hasbro, however, has sold over a billion dollars of G.I Joe merch.
It’s fair to say that Stan missed out on millions but that’s not the point of this tale.
The point is simply by combining two ideas together you can create something new.
Lamborghini vs Ferrari
I heard this story on the Modern Wisdom podcast last week.
Ferruccio Lamborghini was a successful tractor manufacturer. He bought a couple of Ferrari’s.
One of them had a faulty clutch that kept breaking so Ferruccio got his tractor engineers to investigate.
Turns out Ferrari was using a cheap clutch that could not handle the power of the vehicle.
Lamborghini had a meeting with Enzo Ferrari to voice his concerns. Lamborghini’s criticisms were not received well.
Ferrari looked down on Lamborghini and humiliated him by telling him to stick to tractors.
Harsh words were exchanged and a rivalry was born.
Lamborghini swore he would build a car better than Ferrari’s. Filled with ‘I’ll fucking show him’ gusto and determination, Lamborghini created a plan.
He visited every successful car manufacturer across Europe and was open about stealing ideas from each one of them.
He then hired a team of former Ferrari engineers who had been fired and set about making the 1963 Lamborghini 350 GTV.
Only 120 were made and sold. Today they are worth millions.
The companies net worth is $12 billion. And it all started over a cheap Ferrari clutch and a bunch of ideas stolen from other manufacturers.
You can see the results of idea sex all around you.
Apple combined phones and mp3 players to create the iPhone.
In 1787 Levi Hutchins combined an alarm with a clock. It was just for his own use. He invented the alarm clock so he could wake at 4 am every morning.
In the 1940s, skateboarding was invented in California by surfers who wanted to do something when the surf was flat.
They attached roller skate wheels to crates. They called them ‘crate scooters.’
Surfing shops saw the craze and started making mini surfboards and attached roller skating wheels to them.
Skateboarding is basically surfing with wheels.
It’s now an industry that generates over $5 billion dollars annually.
It’s not just entrepreneurs that combine two or more ideas to create something new. It’s commonly used in creative pursuits.
Quentin Tarantino is famous for this.
“I steal from every single movie ever made. I love it—if my work has anything it’s that I’m taking this from this and that from that and mixing them together….I steal from everything. Great artists steal, they don’t do homages.”
— Quentin Tarantino
Run DMC and Aerosmith blended hip hop and rock to create an uber global hit, ‘Walk this way”
Jay -Z did the same with Linkin Park.
I managed a DJ called Mauro Picotto who was No.7 in the world on DJ magazine’s Top 100 DJs. This remains the gold standard barometer of the success of globals DJ’s
He had over 30 top 40 hits across Europe. Headlined festivals, arenas, and even a football stadium.
He created a signature sound by combining techno and trance together. This signature sound made his music instantly recognisable.
He went from an unknown DJ outside Italy to a top 10 global superstar DJ in just two years.
James Altucher recommends we create 10 ideas a day. He likens it to a muscle. The more you do it, the better you get.
Are there hot trends you can combine and create something new?
Can you combine your interests + your skills + your personality to become the best in the world at the intersection?
What two things can be combined to solves people’s pain points?
A bit about me
I’m an ex- multi-platinum artist manager. I created strategies and built audiences for artists who sold millions.
You can read more in the archives here. Find out more information on my website or connect on my LinkedIn
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