Super Cities №41 — Old Products, New Models

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

The Mastermind Behind Chase’s Industry-Changing Sapphire Reserve Card Sets Her Sights on Banking

“What they were looking for was something different than what the market had to offer at the time. They weren’t interested in their father’s credit card.”


One of the most dangerous misconceptions about innovation is the idea that important product breakthroughs are entirely new.

To that concept, I quote a famous book: “nothing is new under the sun.”

The most successful companies are not producing new products; instead, they improve upon products that already exist. They create new models.

Look around. Google wasn’t the first search engine. It just built a better model of an existing product.

Facebook was not the first social network. Or Airbnb. Or Stripe. Or SpaceX. You get the point.

If we measure product innovation by newness, we are unnecessarily limiting ourselves. There can only be so many products — and by this logic, so many entrepreneurs.

But when we measure innovation by different models of existing products, there are limitless possibilities.

I would argue that this approach is in fact more inclusive. More people can figure out better uses for existing products than come up with new products from scratch.

As the Bloomberg story highlights, it’s not that people — in this case, young people — did not want credit cards (the product). They wanted different versions (models) of the product — different rewards, cooler offers, and more rewarding experiences.

As we work on 2018, let’s innovate by applying new models to old products. The possibilities are limitless.

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