Adjacent Possibilities of Your Next Idea

Is there an “Adjacent Possibility” in your organization—or even the people—that could create your next big idea?

I was recently introduced to the power of Adjacent Possibilities by long-time friend and colleague, Nick Usborne, at an American Writers and Artists Web Intensive workshop where we were both speakers.

If you’re not familiar with Adjacent Possibilities, prepare to say to yourself “well, duh.”

Adjacent Possibilities in an organization’s products and services has the potential to create something new, without the risk of chasing far-flung shiny object ideas with questionable ROI.

The premise of an Adjacent Possibility is that a new product or service can be created from two existing products or services. For example: chocolate and peanut butter. Separated for years, then combined to become a hot seller in Reece’s peanut butter cups.

Another example: laptops and smartphones. An Adjacent Possibility was the creation of the tablet—larger than a smartphone, but smaller than a laptop. Now tablets are everywhere. 

For people, consider how someone with two different talents can take their career to another level just by combining them into one area of responsibility.

Many organizations are obsessed with seeking the newest big product innovation. And that’s good. Disruptive technologies and products have power.

But a singular focus on completely new products or services, without considering Adjacent Possibilities of existing products, is also a risk.  Why? Because a competitor may swoop in by identifying an Adjacent Possibility that’s been overlooked, and succeed with a new product by stealing smart.

Adjacent Possibility tips that Nick suggested include:

  • Look inside your organization to see where you may have Adjacent Possibilities in current products where an outgrowth won’t involve a risky leap forward.
  • You don’t have to be the best at any one thing. Just be pretty good at two or three things you can combine.
  • If you don’t have two or three things to combine, connect with one or two other people (or organizations) who have adjacent skills.

In a world of Adjacent Possibilities, you can take the pressure off, and create big successes.


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.