A couple months had passed, and I decided I wasn’t ready to make any huge changes. I kept my existing office and focused on finding another product I could create and license. It was actually a great downtime – it was refreshing to let go. Spinformation had consumed me, and although its dwindle in sales wasn’t exactly ideal, I was now free! I didn’t fully know it at the time, of course, but I’d opened myself up in the best way. Something new and fun was about to enter my life.
I could have never predicted the concept that jumped into my life next. Rob Stephani, a good friend of mine for over thirty-five years, approached me an ordinary day in June. Rob had been a musician in his youth (I have the photographs of him I took to prove it! See starving artist phase) and now owned a successful music store. But he was restless, and ready to get out of the business. Familiar with my knowledge of product development, Rob asked me, “What can we do to a guitar pick?” Guitar pick? I’d never played the guitar. To say I didn’t know much is giving me more credit than I deserve. But Rob and I did know a man who was doing fairly well selling guitar picks. And that was enough to persuade me to tool around.
It’s not hard to learn about a product’s market. And I play games to get my brain turning and inspire me – basically, to come up with ideas. Some fun, child-like games. For example, “mix and match”. I combine two concepts or products, no matter how closely related or seemingly farfetched, and examine the result. Camera + phone = cameraphone. Seems like that one sold fairly well! Also, the question game “what if”. What if a teddy bear could talk? The product I worked on at Worlds of Wonder, Teddy Ruxpin, was likely born out of such a question. “Solve it” is another similar game – identify a problem and try and fix it. How can the space on a container be increased? Spinformation, two labels in one, was invented.
All creative people play games to come up with new ideas. It’s a matter of looking at the world, the marketplace, from a different frame – seeing what isn’t there yet but could or should be. There is NO bad idea. I’ve applied these same games to the label industry, the toy and gift industries, and now, to the music industry. What could I do differently?
I learned that guitar picks have been around for eighty years. Eighty. What could I, Stephen Key, put a twist on? What could I do with this product?
Inspirations hit! Guess where, and tune in.