Bobbi Brown was on a TV shoot and had forgotten her eyeliner. To make do, she grabbed a Q-Tip and used it to brush some mascara on her eyelids, solving her immediate problem. The next morning she was surprised to see the mascara still in place. The gel in the mascara had made it last. She called her design team and had them mock up the first gel liner – now her most copied product. Many of Brown's innovations have come from thinking "It would make so much sense if…" She describes these as "Random ideas mixed with common sense."
This was just one of the examples Brown shared with me. She also related how using a clean baby wipe to remove her makeup prompted her to create a baby-wipe-like makeup remover. And she told me about wanting to wear cowboy boots with jeans she had. When they wouldn't fit, she cut them off – the boots, not the jeans. These stories all go to her philosophy of having a clear vision, but then being open to change direction as needed. She's good at this because she seems to be able to understand what's needed next. Definitely a big idea to change direction before anyone else knows you need to.
I must admit this was a difficult interview for me. I'm still not sure I understand what the difference is between mascara and eyeliner. But Brown made it easy for me. She seemed to genuinely enjoy teaching a complete ignoramous (me) about what she did. I'm thinking that's part of what enables her to innovate and connect.
The holy grail of innovation is the Eureka moment – the sudden breakthrough. Those moments don't happen in vacuums. They have preludes and second acts. So prepare in advance, focus on solving problems, and follow through. Follow this link to read the overview article on Forbes.com.