My new favorite thing is Candy Cane Hershey Kisses. Normally, I’m a lover of extra-dark chocolate. White seems wimpy in comparison. However, I’m addicted to the Candy Cane kisses because they combine the white chocolate with a hint of mint and bits of candy cane. These kisses make an excellent example for what you can do when you combine things that may not be as appealing alone as they are together.
For instance, I’m not a fan of regular candy canes, just like I normally don’t prefer white chocolate. But Hershey’s combined the two, added a little mint, and made me a slave for life. Some of the best things in the world are combinations of two or more lesser known objects.
Recipes, and thus food, are the perfect example of this principle. We can enjoy significant pleasure from combining different foods together, more so than might be possible with a single, unadorned food. Sometimes, I think we take combinations for granted, so much so that we overlook opportunities to create new ones.
Now, think about the people you know. What combinations do they represent? Consider this: how hard is it to separate Steve Jobs from Apple or Bill Gates from Microsoft? Some people, and things, just go together, and the fit happens so easily we don’t feel a need to question it. Now, think about combinations that leave you uncomfortable. AT&T and the iPhone, anyone? Facebook and your online purchases?
Going back to my earlier point about overlooking potential combinations, Noah Kagen makes a great point that, “People have routines. They have their 24 hours in a day and know how they are going to use it.” The best combinations recognize this reality and offer tweaks to improve the current experience in a way that doesn’t require people completely change their routines. A few combinations have broken this rule with impunity. iTunes, for instance, completely changed how people purchased music, but for every iTunes, there’s a pets.com.
Success doesn’t require that you start from scratch and come up with something completely new. Many of the pieces already exist. I suspect some of the most successful entrepreneurs recognized this potential and saved their sweat and tears for the really “big” new ideas. You’ve heard the cliché, why reinvent the wheel? Well, we aren’t still driving around on stone or wood tires, so somebody recognized the potential to combine a proven concept with something new that improved the experience. Ultimately, that’s what the best combinations do: they make life better than it was before, even if it’s only a little. The boldest ideas may be right in front of you, passed over by people believing that only the “big” ideas are worth pursuing. Feel like proving them wrong?