How to take inspiration from the Brexit crisis? It seems like an impossible question, however, Giles Lury’s new book Inspiring Innovation tells us how bright moments have come out of dark ones.
As I sit writing this, my radio is on in the background and yet another group of politicians are discussing the latest developments in the ongoing saga that is Brexit. I find it quite hard to imagine how Brexit could be the inspiration for the birth ot only of a new brand but one that will go on to have true iconic status.
Yet, history tells us that a previous British constitutional crisis was just such an inspiration.
On 29 October 1956, Israel invaded the Egyptian Sinai and began what is known as the Suez Crisis, or the Second Arab-Israeli War. The Israeli invasion was quickly followed by incursions by the UK and France. The aim of the three allied countries was to regain control of the Suez Canal and to remove Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had recently nationalized the canal.
As the fighting started, an international crisis developed, and after a short period of a combination of political pressure and financial threats from the US, the Soviet Union and the United Nations led to a withdrawal by the three invaders.
The episode humiliated the UK and France and strengthened Nasser. The British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, resigned.
Another side effect of the crisis had been a reduction in the supply of petrol to the UK, which, in turn, had led to the government introducing petrol rationing. It was this rationing that was the inspiration that drove the rapid development of the car we know today as the Mini.
Alexander Issigonis was a former racing driver who became a successful engineer and designer. He had worked for Humber, Austin and Morris Motors Ltd when in 1955 he was recruited by British Motor Corporation’s chairman, Sir Leonard Lord, to design a new range of three cars. The XC (experimental car) code names assigned for the new vehicles were XC/9001, for a large comfortable car, XC/9002, for a medium-sized family car, and XC/9003 fir a small town car.
During 1956 Alexander had concentrated on the larger two cars, going as far as producing several prototypes. However, at the end of 1956, following the introduction of the fuel rationing brought about by the Suez Crisis, Alexander was ordered by Lord to focus on bringing the smaller car, XC/9003 into production as quickly as possible.
Prototypes were running as early as 1957, and in August 1959 the car was launched simultaneously under British Motor Corporation’s two main brand names, Austin and Morris, as the Morris Mini Minor and the Austin Seven. (It wouldn’t be until 1961 that it would be renamed the Austin Mini, and eight more years before the Mini became a marque in its own right.)
Alexander and his team were incredibly innovative with their design, introducing a space-saving transverse engine/front-wheel drive layout. This allowed 80% of the area of the car’s floorpan to be used for passengers and luggage, contributing to its compact size and good fuel efficiency. It was an approach that would influence a generation of car makers.
The car was an immediate and huge success and went on to become an icon of 1960s British popular culture, not least for a starring role in the 1960 film, The Italian Job.
Lovely though the story is, I am still struggling to see how the still-talking politicians and Brexit will be an inspiration for anything as inventive and iconic as the Mini. But then again, I’m not sure I would have guessed the Suez Crisis would be inspirational either.
The best ideas can come from the most unusual and unexpected sources. In this book, leading brand consultant and author Giles Lury presents 75 stories of extraordinary innovation, as well as the many and varied sources of inspiration, that led to companies developing highly successful products and brands.
With tales covering brands including Angry Birds, Diners Club, Fanta, Netflix, Viagra, Victoria’s Secret and Airbnb, you will find out how one size does not fit all, and that ideas can be sparked by anything and everything – from anger to embarrassment, from people watching to biomimicry (borrowing ideas from the natural world). Ultimately, this book is a call for disruption and deviance and provides original tips and techniques to help you in your search for the next big thing.
About Giles Lury
Giles Lury is a leading branding consultant and an executive at The Value Engineers. He is the author of How Coca-Cola Took Over the World and The Prisoner and the Penguin.
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