Brainstorming with Da Vinci: Chapter 23


Merge Two to Create Something New

Sampling can be an inspirational approach to create a new song. Incorporating a part of a past song and fusing it into a different genre can inspire artists to create something new with a nod to the past.

There are many well-known hit songs that used sampling. For example, 2Pac’s “California Love” with Dr. Dre sampled Joe Cocker’s funky riff in “Woman to Woman” and fused it into a hip-hop hit. Sugar Hill Gangs hit “Rapper’s Delight” sampled the strutting bassline from Chic’s disco banger “Good Times”. After the songs release, Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards tried to sue the group’s record label – Sugar Hill Records – for copyright, but eventually settled with a songwriting credit.

There are also some lesser-known samplings. You probably haven’t heard of the song “Found a Child” by Ballin’ Jack. However, you are most likely familiar with sample from the song used in Young M.C.’s song “Busta Move”. The sample includes the jumpy rhythm guitar, handclaps and “uh! hah!” exclamations from the original song.

In researching this book, I came across great stories of how songwriters can hear another artist’s song and are inspired to make something new. For example, Beyonce’ thought Stevie Nicks’ song “Edge of Seventeen” guitar riff sounded like a “voluptuous woman” and decided to write the Destiny Child song “Bootylicious” based around a sample of it. As well as climbing the charts around the world, it also popularized the slang word “bootylicious” so much it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. [i]

In sampling, fusing a sample from an old song into something new occurs regularly. It is a creative exploration not only for the musician, but also for the listener.

In brainstorming, sampling innovative ideas and approaches from other product categories or disciplines is a method I use regularly to get the team thinking about what could be.

Fusion Method

This method is a way to stretch the team’s imagination on what could be. Most people are knowledgeable within their discipline or competitive category and default to what they know when generating ideas. Fusion applies approaches outside of the team’s knowledge base to think of novel solutions.

For example, I was recently leading an innovation brainstorming for a pizza restaurant chain. To prep for the session, I audited successful approaches from different categories including snack foods, travel, grocery, and even non-pizza restaurants. For example, the pizza restaurant category is very deal-centric; most brands offer coupons, a promotional meal for a low price, and daily deals. To get the team to think differently about deals, I introduced the idea of a monthly subscription model used by entertainment streaming services. While approaches, like subscription models, were not original in the marketing space, they were original in the pizza category. These approaches inspired the team to come up with ideas relative to their North Star.

Innovation Recall

There are different ways to infuse this approach within a session. The simplest method is to have people think of approaches they read about or experienced. For example, in a charter school brainstorming, I recommended this method because the teachers had experiences at different school districts and were knowledgeable about innovative teaching methods. In the session, participants contributed innovative teaching approaches, and the team brainstormed on how it could be applied within their school.

Innovation Prep

Another method is to do an innovation audit ahead of time from different categories. This is what I did in the previous pizza example. The idea architect would research other categories or disciplines to identify approaches that would prompt the team to think differently. The idea architect would use these different approaches one at a time to trigger new ideas.

Fusion Example
Fusing a Grocery Website with Meal Planning

I used the fusion method on a consistent basis to innovate experiences, especially digital ones. An example of this is within the grocery category. I once worked with a team on rethinking the ALDI website. A common tactic on most websites there is a tool that allows users to save products into a grocery list. The grocery list is expected functionality on a grocery website, but not a differentiator.

A category insight is that most people shop at more than one grocery store. To increase revenue, the grocer needed to own more of the list. In other words, the brand needed to influence the shopper to buy more products on the shopper’s list from their store. This is typically done by offering the shopper the best deal on the items on their list. This deal strategy is the primary tactic to lure shoppers into their store.

The problem for us is that ALDI did not do weekly deals. No product discounts. No buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO). No buy 5 save $5. Nothing. Nada. Bupkis.

So how could ALDI lure shoppers using fusion?

Well, besides focusing on the list, we focused on meal planning. About 50 percent of shoppers did meal planning as an activity to create their grocery list. By integrating into a shopper’s meal planning, the grocer could influence their list. Based on this insight, an audit was done on meal planning sites where we identified best practices to use within our brainstorming.

The fusion of the grocery list and meal planning inspired the team to rethink the online grocery shopping experience. Instead of creating a basic grocery site, the team fused a grocery site with a meal planning site and designed an experience the not only helped shoppers plan their weekly meals but also increased the likelihood they bought ALDI products.

[i] The Best Samples in Music … Ever!”, NME, Hannah MyIrea, May 25, 2020,