by: Geoff Ficke

Prospective entrepreneurs are always encouraged to think outside of the box when striving to commercialize their idea for a new business. The ability to see things differently and identify a niche for a product is so essential. Unfortunately, there is no book, course or advice that enables a person to perfect this skill. Some of us stumble into an opportunity. Others are introduced inadvertently to an idea in their line work or at home. Many other successful entrepreneurs do develop an ability to see things a bit more weirdly than the rest of us.

There are many historical examples of great people that achieved great things by thinking differently. Alexander the Great was such a success. Alexander was a warrior at 14, general at 18 and king of tiny Macedonia at 20. He conquered most of the known world before his death at the age of 32.

An example of his unusual thought process was his approach to solving the famous 4th century problem of the Gordian Knot. Outside the Temple of Zeus, at Gordus, stood an oxcart with an unusually complicated knot attached to the hitch. The world famous Gordian Knot was made of densely packed comer bark and there appeared to be no beginning or end to the confusing mass. Oracles of the day proclaimed that Zeus had promised that whoever could unravel the knot would rule the world.

Adventurers from all over the world ventured to Gordus to try solving the puzzle of the Gordian Knot. None ever succeeded. Alexander planned for his encounter with the knot as if he were strategizing his famous military campaign against the Persian King Darius.

Alexander spent hours pondering the Gordian Knot. He realized that success in unraveling the knot would further trumpet his reputation as the world’s greatest warrior. Success would motivate his troops and sow fear in enemies.
Finally, after interminable study, Alexander stood. He reached for a great axe and with violent suddenness, swung mightily. Striking the immense knot dead center, it fell open like a pear. The gnarled bulk of the knot fell to the ground and the oxcart was freed for the first time in centuries.

Alexander saw a problem that had vexed men for centuries. He applied a creative, innovative, indeed the simplest approach to the task. The puzzle of the Gordian Knot did not come accompanied with a fixed set of rules that had to be followed in order to claim success. The puzzle of the Gordian Knot simply required the oxcart be freed of the massive tangle. Alexander understood that conventional approaches to the problem, followed for centuries by all others attempting to untie the knot, was not relevant or of any import.

Alexander the Great said that his greatest victory was his success in solving the problem of the Gordian Knot. This achievement confirmed for the whole world that this man was gifted, clever, an outside the box thinker (a term certainly not used during the Alexander’s time).

Successful entrepreneurs think differently. They are problem solvers. Novel features, utility and new benefits must be included in any product offered in today’s competitive market. Just as Alexander the Great addressed the puzzle by looking at the problem differently, entrepreneurs need to address their development hurdles by identifying and filling needs that others have not yet seen.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.