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The Rubber-Band Principle: Using Value to Create Innovations

The Rubber-Band Principle basically teaches us to discover unseen opportunities for value to create innovations that touch our daily lives

The rubber-band principle comes from the story of how Kraft macaroni and cheese originated. James Lewis Kraft, the founder of Kraft Foods, found a salesman in St. Louis who was selling boxes of pasta with bags of grated cheese attached with a rubber band. Kraft knew a great idea when he saw one and started to sell boxed macaroni and cheese in 1937. His company sells a million boxes a day even now.

What I find unique about this story is how it illustrates the principles of innovation in basic terms: technology meets need. Kraft foods had a very advanced technical product when it discovered how to dry cheddar cheese. During the depression, Kraft needed to store and transport cheese easily to make it cheap. What the salesman identified was the value–people wanted a good dinner. He connected technology with value—that’s the rubber band.

Do you want to innovate? Find unseen opportunities to connect the possibilities of technology with the possibilities of delivering value. The sales forces of many companies are out there trying to figure out what is valuable, while their engineers are working in the back on developing technology. Innovation only comes when someone connects the two. Go ask any engineer or designer in a company and ask, “What is the number one unspoken problem of your customers?” Frankly, most engineers couldn’t even tell you the number one spoken question. But salespeople know.

Think of the rubber band as the connection between engineering and sales, technology, and value. Put their heads together and innovate.