TRIZ – Blessing in Disguise

Blessing in Disguise is typically applied as follows:

1. Use harmful factors (particularly, harmful effects of the environment or surroundings) to achieve a positive effect.

a. i.e. Use waste heat to generate electric power

2. Eliminate the primary harmful action by adding it to another harmful action to resolve the problem.

a. i.e. Add a buffering material to a corrosive solution

3. Amplify a harmful factor to such a degree that it is no longer harmful.

a. i.e. Use a backfire to eliminate the fuel from a forest fire

Blessing in Disguise is essentially the idea of turning lemons into lemonade. How can you make a negative factor into a positive one?

For instance, some entrepreneurial motor heads have learned that they can use leftover cooking oil from restaurants as a fuel to power their car’s engine. They’re essentially taking a waste product and turning it into a valuable resource. Or think about singing the blues. Some of the greatest recording artists of our time have taken a bad scenario and made their experiences into a hit record.

Another example is computer virus attacks or firewall breaches. When a hacker breaks into your company’s Web site, how do you turn that into a blessing in disguise? One great idea is to go hire the people. I’ve actually worked for firms that did just that. Some hacker would break into the firewall and figure out something we didn’t know. Rather than getting angry, we decided to use their knowledge to our advantage and made them a part of our team.

Breakfast with the Birds

My wife and I recently took a trip to Australia. One of the stops on our trip was Port Douglas, a small town in Far North Queensland. Port Douglas has beautiful beaches that are really remote and pristine. On our first morning at the hotel, we asked the concierge, “What are some of the more popular things people do while they are here?”

The concierge immediately suggested Breakfast with the Birds, a popular tourist attraction in the region. The program sounded like a unique concept, so we decided to give it a go.

The concept sounds kind of weird, but the breakfast was actually pretty cool. They had a breakfast buffet set up outside with a canopy suspended over the eating area. All these different species of birds were allowed to walk around on the ground underneath (and sometimes on) the tables. When you’re finished eating, you get to wander around the rest of the habitat, and feed and pet the kangaroos. Getting up close and personal with exotic species of birds was a really neat experience; and a very unique idea.

When the founders initially came up with their concept, they were most likely trying to figure out how to keep the birds away from the food. Birds flying overhead and dropping you know what on the customer’s plates was not on the agenda. So they thought, “How can we make this work?”

That’s a question you should always ask yourself. “What would it take to make this idea work?”

The founders ultimately ended up designing the canopy over the eating area so that most of the bird species cannot fly over the tables. Rather than viewing the birds as an obstacle to their plan, they turned lemons into lemonade and made the birds a key selling point of their product. The birds were, in fact, a blessing in disguise. The owners of Breakfast with the Birds took available resources and applied them much more effectively.

We had also included a Rainforest Safari on our Australia itinerary. The Safari had caught our attention because of the way the trip was advertised: small groups only. The Safari’s Web site promised that there would never be more than four people on the tour.

David Armbrust, the founder of Rainforest Safari and our tour guide, arrived at the hotel on the day of our trip and picked us up in his Jeep. I quickly realized that the group size restriction is primarily in effect because David can only pick four people up in his Jeep!

David drove us about 40 minutes up into the mountains and into the rainforest. Sure enough, once we got out of the Jeep, kangaroos, wallabies, and exotic birds approached our group in search of the treats David had tucked in a pouch around his waist.

As we stood there, watching David distribute sweet potato and peanut snacks to all of the animals, a question dawned on me. I asked David, “How do you have access to the rainforest?”

He informed me that he owned the piece of land, and said, “Well, this is basically my house.”

This guy picks you up in his Jeep and takes you to his backyard. He used all of his available resources, things that he already owned, to start his own business.

I asked David how long he had been feeding the animals, and he told me he’d been doing it every day for the last 20 years.

I said, “OK, so you were already feeding the animals, when one day it occurred to you to bring people along for the ride and charge them $250 a piece?”

David just smiled.

He’s booked about five days a week on this Safari Tour by using his available resources and applying them more efficiently and effectively.

Look at all the available resources you have in your business. Some of these resources might seem kind of invisible at first, but there’s all kinds of resources that you already have that you can use more effectively to market your product better or to provide a better product or service.

Available resources. How can you best use them? Can you make lemons from lemonade in your business?