Dagnabbits!

Ross Sanders is the Executive Director of Bizdom U , a not-for-profit entrepreneurial academy to help promote hope and economic prosperity in urban centers. He asks his students, partners, and contributors to keep an eye out for “dagnabbits”. These are moments when you are frustrated about a situation, product, or service. A dagnabbit is akin to stubbing your toe. That flash of gosh-darn-it disappointment or frustration that makes you wish the world was different (of course, feel free to substitute any expletive you choose).

Rather than just getting annoyed and moving on, keep a running list of these moments. Looking back on them, they can become one of your most powerful sources of creative inspiration. In fact, many of the greatest inventions came directly out of dagnabbit moments. Pierre Omidyar founded eBay when he was frustrated there was no easy way to grow his Pez collection online. Frederick Smith was outraged there was no reliable way to send overnight packages, so he launched Federal Express. Don Wetzel was upset he couldn’t withdraw cash from his bank account during non-banking hours, so he invented the now ever-present Automated Teller Machine (ATM).

To use dagnabbits to your advantage, start by thinking through, discussing, or observing your daily life in action. Even better, interview people who are deep in the flow of your creative challenge (the target of your creativity). Talk to customers, colleagues, investors, partners, suppliers, politicians, the media, etc. What are the natural pain points? Where do people get hung up? What bottlenecks exist?

Sick of standing in line at a retail store? What about an iPod/iPad app that lets customers check themselves out saving time and money for both the customer and the store. Fed up with that co-worker who never uses deodorant? Why not build an online anonymous friendly tip system to tell people things they need to hear but that you are too embarrassed to mention. Frustrated your laptop battery runs out on airplanes? What about a battery rental service that rents extra batteries by the hour from one airport to another?

This week, savor those frustrating experiences rather than curse them. Look for them and keep a running list. They just might be that burst of inspiration you’re looking for. Find the dagnabbits, and you will quickly uncover a powerful jumping-off point for creativity.