5 ways to make old ideas new

Roman Boed

Some business ideas seem to hang around forever. They’re timeless.

Porter’s Five Forces, Net Promoter Score, consumer segmentation, leveraged buyouts, annual sales bonuses, performance reviews, hierarchical reporting structures, networking . . . these are concepts that, with all their flaws, seem to be a persistent part of the business world.

If you’re writing about crypto, AI, the metaverse, remote work, quantum computing, or evolving computer languages, new developments are happening so rapidly that there’s always something to write about. But what if your expertise is in something proven and settled?

No one wants to read another article or book on why consumer segmentation or sales bonuses or networking are still the same as they used to be.

Making old ideas new

Old ideas are popular. That means people care about them. And that’s the key to putting a new spin on the old idea in a way that makes a difference. Here are some suggestions:

  1. How a new trend affects an evergreen idea. How does remote work change customer experience? How did COVID supply-chain disruption change thinking on just-in-time inventory? Old ideas may be evergreen, but that doesn’t mean they’re static. An intelligent perspective on how the idea is relevant in the new context is not just interesting, but essential.
  2. Is this the end of the line for the old idea? At Forrester, I wrote about how the age of the customer has invalidated much of the reasoning behind Porter’s Five Forces competitive framework. Old ideas don’t live forever. Can you make a plausible case that, for example, structural changes in the job market or new collaboration technologies have made an evergreen idea obsolete?
  3. Vertical market applications. How does networking work in the post-COVID travel industry? What’s the right organizational structure for an Agile software development shop? Focusing on particular markets may allow you to extend and sharpen perspectives on ideas with a long history.
  4. Better tools for evergreen ideas. Could an app make it easier to manage an existing idea or framework? Will a virtual workshop make training on the idea easier? Even if the ideas are stable, the methods used to implement them can continually advance.
  5. Version 2.0 (or 3.0, or . . . ). Ideas aren’t static; they evolve. As they get out into the world, it becomes clear they need additions, modifications, and course corrections. If ideas are to remain useful, there’s a constant need to update them to address what experts have learned about them in practice.

Don’t be boring

Old ideas can become trite and boring.

But the world keeps changing. Addressing those changes is the key to keeping your thinking up-to-date and you writing intriguing.

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