Identifying a Problem and Finding a Solution From Another Industry

In yesterday’s post on 10 Free Business Ideas from Idealab’s IdeaDay, the last idea, Opti-Park, came after identifying a problem in one area and finding a solution for it from a completely unrelated area. Bill Gross, the founder of Idealab, commented that Idealab has 40,000 square feet of office space in the Old Town part of Pasadena. According to building code, they can double the size of their own facility to 80,000 feet, but to do that they are also required to add four parking spots per 1,000 square feet of space. Only, land is expensive, super expensive and there’s no room.

Naturally, the ideal solution would be to squeeze more parking spaces out of the existing parking deck and surrounding parking lots. Unfortunately, no good solution had emerged until a fortuitous trip to NYC. There, Bill encountered a building using the new intelligent elevator system whereby a passenger keys in their desired floor from the elevator lobby, waits for a designated elevator, and rides the highlighted elevator to a specific floor. Inside the elevator, there aren’t any floor selection buttons — everything is controlled from the elevator lobbies. The end result is shorter elevator trips and a much more efficient use of resources.

After experiencing the intelligent elevators, the idea came to Bill to do the same thing for parking lots and parking decks. Imagine pulling up to a parking lot gate, a computer instantly calculating the dimensions of your car, and issuing a slip of paper to park in a designated spot (e.g. D4). Upon receiving the slip of paper, the driver knows exactly where to go and doesn’t drive around aimlessly until they encounter the first open spot, which may or may not fit their car. Of course, the big benefit is striping the lines of the parking deck for a variety of car sizes such that it can hold several more cars (in Bill’s example he cites one lot being able to hold 23% more cars). Eventually, the lot can be designed to not have any painted stripes but rather have LED lights that can change dynamically to maximize parking efficiency — so many amazing opportunities.

OptiPark more efficient layout

Overall, the takeaway is to keep a list of problems encountered in a Google Spreadsheet so that when solutions emerge in different areas, it becomes more automatic to apply them to other opportunities.

What else? What are your thoughts on identifying a problem and finding a solution from another industry? Do you have any examples of this?

One thought on “Identifying a Problem and Finding a Solution From Another Industry

  1. The Optipark idea was definitely the most compelling of the ten. Thanks for expanding on this one — the diagram helps to illustrate it. I found myself walking through the parking deck yesterday wondering how I would outfit it with lights for the dynamic spots.

    When I worked with Seth this summer he talked alot about things that are broken and patterns. His “This is Broken” talk is the perfect example of how one could build the spreadsheet you talk about above.

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