From open source software to personalized sneakers, the idea of the remix has become ubiquitous in the marketplace. One of the major benefits of the remix is its ability to eke out the â€œghosts in the machine.â€
In music, ghosts in the machine are the name given to the happy accidents that occur when sampling an old sound. Some of the best bits of samples are the white noise that is recorded unintentionally – hidden information in the audio that distorts and makes itself heard when the sample is changed in some way. Remixing allows us to find the ghosts in all kinds of machines, not just the ones that create music. We can find these same original elements of innovation inside business models, and pull out and amplify the weird and interesting noises nobody thought to look for in the first place. Here are three of the best…
This sh*t is bananas
In 1972, the owners of The Hungry Monk pub in East Sussex, England were messing about in the kitchen. They threw some bananas, pastry, caramel and toffee together, just to see, and accidentally created Banoffee cake, now one of the worldâ€™s favorite desserts.
Despite their knack for sampling, the owners of the Hungry Monk learned a harsh lesson about intellectual property. When they didnâ€™t patent the idea, it was stolen by British supermarket chains who marketed it as an American dish, even though Banoffee Pie is only just catching on in the US, 30 years later. Some supermarkets later apologized to the owners of The Hungry Monk, who to this day are offering Â£10,000 to anyone who can prove Banoffee Pie wasnâ€™t invented there. Nobody has ever come forward.
Game recognize game
Back in 1889, a guy named Fusajiro Yamauchi founded a playing card manufacturing company in Kyoto, Japan. Over the years the company tried to eke out what it thought were ghosts in the machine, trying its hand at running taxi cabs, a TV network, and a food company. It even got into the â€˜love hotelâ€™ business (short-stay hotels were courting couples go to â€œrestâ€ for one to three hours) for a while. None of these did too well, but the Yamauchis were committed ghost hunters.
In 1970 the third president of the company, Hiroshi Yamauchi, came across a guy named Gunpei Yokoi, who was working on one of the company factories, and had made a mechanical arm for his own amusement. Yamauchi commissioned Yokoi to mass-produce the arm, and that Christmas they sold 1.2 million units. Yokoi was a ghost in the machine, Yamauchi recognized that and amplified his influence in the company, moving him from maintenance to product development. Yokoi was instrumental in moving the company from producing playing cards to electronic games. The company is still known today by the same name it was back in 1889; Nintendo.
I can hear you callinâ€™
The Carphone Warehouse is a company whose name lets you know exactly what their business model looked like back in the 1980s when they launched. At the time, mobile phones were the ghosts – carphones were thought to be the money-making machines. The company listened to its customers instead of making the mistake of sticking to its original plan. These days they donâ€™t sell too many carphones, but The Carphone Warehouse is now Europeâ€™s leading independent retailer of mobile phones and services, with over 2,000 stores in 10 countries.