Blog: Brian Tolle

In Ann Arbor it's all about entrepreneurship and innovation. But do you have what it takes to flourish in the new economy? Consultant Brian Tolle has made a successful career out of coaching local start-ups and companies. He'll be blogging about the methods and mindset necessary to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Brian Tolle - Post 4: Spotting Opportunities for Innovation Final Exam

I’ve been talking about ways to help you spot opportunities for innovation. Here’s your final exam. What about this scenario represents innovation? Is it plausible? Impossible? Unlikely? Intriguing?

We’ll travel five years into the future to hear Dena, a fictitious 26 year-old, describe her experience.

June 2014

"It took me two years but I finally did it – yesterday I drove away from my local Target store with my brand new Target X Car.  And I paid for it without having to take out a loan – even from my parents. Target made it that easy to do: 

First, the price of the subcompact model I bought was $2,000 cheaper than other comparable models I looked at. 

Second, I signed up for Target’s “Future Freedom” program about two years ago. The program gives you a special Target credit card. The more I purchased at Target with this card, the more points I earned towards the car’s purchase price (up to 10% of the purchase price). The program also has an online savings account option set up with ING Direct that pays me a slightly better interest rate than other banks. 

Third, because I selected the car model I was planning on purchasing when I first signed up, Target would send me regular updates on how close I was to having enough saved up to buy the one I wanted. But they do tempt you – sometimes I would get a notice from Target saying a particular model was available at a reduced price (overstocked situation). It may not have been the color or model I wanted but if I was willing to make those trade-offs, I could have had a car quicker and at a lower price. But I stuck with the model I had in mind.

Fourth, I did all the paperwork online before I showed up so all I had to do when I got to Target was enter my code, scan my car key, swipe it on the windshield of my new car, and off I went.

Speaking of trade-offs, there were a few I needed to make to get this brand new car. First, the car is not from a traditional car company like Honda, Ford, or VW. The car has no branding on it but the styling is great. A Canadian auto manufacturer, Magna, actually builds the car. They’ve been assembling cars for BMW and Mercedes for some time now and all the quality ratings put these X Cars at comparable to or slightly better than Japanese cars.

Another trade-off was I only had three models to choose from – small (compact), medium (sedan) or large (crossover).  All the models were pre-loaded with the standard features (A/C, iPod plug in, automatic transmission) so I didn’t have much choice there. But I could pick from a lot more colors than I could have if I went to an old fashion car company and there are all these after-market shops that can help me iBrand my car. For instance, I paid $100 to have a logo designed for me and it was easy to snap on (and off) the car so the only brand on my car is my own brand. 

Bottom line -- two years of the bus and Zipcars just didn’t give me the freedom (or personal safety) I needed so these trade-offs were no big deal. I’ve got a reliable new car and no debt. Works for me. "

Check out my podcast with colleague Tom Crawford at as we discuss whether this future scenario has the potential to be an opportunity for innovation.