David Wendorsky works for 3M in its labs. He also goes out to universities to speak to students about innovation.

On one of his visits, he noticed that students were reading books and making passages with highlight pens.  He also noticed that some of them were flagging pages with Post-It notes. 

Wendorsky put 2 and 2 together – and came up with 3M’s latest hit, a highlight pen that has little Post-It flag notes attached to it. By combining the highlight pen with the Post-It sticky notes, it is far easier both to highlight and to flag.   

This is an example of an innovation ‘formula’ known as X+Y. Take two existing products. Combine them, in a manner that creates new value.  

In my book Innovation Management, I describe the X+Y innovation of Lucky Goldstar (the early incarnation of today’s Korean giant LG). A brilliant engineer thought of combining a TV with a VCR, in the same box, using a single tuner, and called in a Viewmax.  It was a hit.  Stores bought it for counter-top displays. Students bought it for dorm rooms.  

Another example is the cell phone with digital camera built in. 

If you can add, you can innovate. Try this exercise: write a list of products you use daily, on the left hand side of the page. Now write the same list on the left hand side. Randomly, join products. See if you come up with something that makes sense and creates value.