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Hybrid Mad Libs® : ICMS – Success is NOT Logical
Hybrid Mad Libs®
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6 August 2013 - 0:06, by , in Lean Six Sigma, No comments

Every time my family took cross-country car trips, Mom would pack snacks, a pencil and a Mad Libs® book.


Mad Libs®, as you may recall, are short stories created by filling in blanks with an assortment of names, nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Miles and time would pass by as Mom, Dad, my brother and I took turns offering up random words to create funny stories.


Mad Libs® also have practical applications. Combining pre-existing items to create a new outcome… commonly called a hybrid… is a time-tested, but sometimes overlooked method, for solving problems or creating opportunities.



Past Hybrid Mad Libs®

You likely own several “Hybrid Mad Libs®”. Trevor Bayliss had an idea years ago to combine his wind-up alarm clock with his electric radio. Today, clock radios are commonplace. Someone put a luggage cart and a suitcase together to produce the rollerboards, commonplace at any airport. Or how about the person who had the idea of putting a copier and telephone together, now commonly called your fax machine.


Present Hybrid Mad Libs®

Inventions and solutions don’t always start with a blank sheet of paper and pen. Combining pre-existing methods and items has given birth to several hybrids the past couple years:

  • Lean Six Sigma… “Lean Six Sigma combines the two most important improvement trends of our time: making work better (using Six Sigma) and making work faster (using Lean principles).” [1]Led by Mayor Graham Richard, the employees of Fort Wayne, Indiana have had success in using Lean Six Sigma to simultaneously improve stewardship of tax dollars while improving the quality of city services.
  • Hybrid cars… With the advent of $3 gas, gas-electric hybrids, once considered a Mad Libs® idea by Detroit, are selling out at premium prices. “Competitors used to pooh-pooh the hybrid gasoline-electric motor as an expensive gimmick appealing mainly to tree-huggers. But now that Toyota is on track to sell 400,000 hybrids next year, they’ve changed their tune.” [2]
  • Great American Songbook… What do you get when you combine a sixty year old rock-star with 1940’s pop songs? The answer is over ten million CD sales in the past couple years. Rocker Rod Stewart has rejuvenated his career singing the old standards.
  • CostMapping™… Combining process mapping with Time-based Activity Based Costing gave birth toCostMapper™, ICMS’ exciting new software product. Combining pictures, words and numbers into one screen, CostMapper™ makes ABC a simple “point & click”. To watch a demo of CostMapper™, go to ICMS.net.
  • Hybrid classes… College courses that combine 50% classroom with 50% web-based online instruction are growing in popularity. California State University Long Beach and the University of Wisconsin use hybrid classes to add student capacity without adding expensive buildings and professors.
  • The Principles… What do you get when you combine the clergy with a consultant? Some might say “an argument” or others “naptime”. In this case, the result was a popular business book titled The Principles. It combines Biblical absolutes with business best practices to form a personal and professional life-changing story.


Steps to create Hybrid Mad Libs®

Are you or your organization searching for a fresh approach to improve sales, costs and profits? Instead of starting over, use what you’ve already got. Look for combinations of existing products, services, activities and partnerships to create value.


Hybrid Mad Libs® is a simple method to create practical ideas by looking for weird combinations of things that pre-exist. The three steps to create Hybrid Mad Libs® are:


Step One: Instead of nouns, verbs and adjectives, on a sheet of paper label five vertical columns: (1) Suppliers; (2) Product Lines; (3) Services (e.g., activities); (4) Processes; and, (5) Customers.

Step Two: Create a list of items in each column. For example, Kinko’s might list:

Suppliers Products Services Processes Customers
FedEx Paper Copies Procurement Businesses
Champion Boxes Shipping Fulfillment Individuals
Xerox Posters Printing Marketing FedEx

Step Three: Scan horizontally looking for new combinations of products, services, activities or partnerships. Most new ideas are hybrids of things that pre-exist. Scanning the example above, it should be no surprise why my local Kinko’s store has a new Hybrid Mad Libs® name: FedEx Kinko’s!


Potential Hybrid Mad Libs®

Hybrid Mad Libs® are the result of left brain logic and right brain creativity:

  • Combine the cost of auto insurance with gasoline. According to authors Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, “This would eliminate the need for uninsured motorist coverage and allocate liability costs to people who drive the most.” [3]
  • Combine nutritional value with monetary value. To encourage food stamp recipients to eat wisely, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has proposed positive and negative consequences linked to choices … $1.00 of food stamps used for a healthy food would equal $1.25 at checkout while $1 spent on junk food would be worth only 75 cents.
  • Combine conventional ideas with weird ideas.“Reward success and failure, punish inaction.” [4] After graduating from college, I worked for Johnson & Johnson. CEO Jim Burke never fired people for mistakes. J&J fired people for either repeating mistakes or never making mistakes.

When I trade in my Ford truck next month, I will seriously consider purchase of a hybrid. How about you? Do you need to purchase or create a hybrid? Fill in the blanks:


If I combined _________ and __________ I’d get _____________ .


Let me know what Hybrid Mad Lib® you create. Send your Hybrid or your comments to me at TomPryor@icms.net.




[1] What is Lean Six Sigma?, Mike George, Dave Rowlands & Bill Kastle, McGraw Hill, 2004
[2] Hybrid Envy, Alex Taylor, Fortune Magazine, October 3, 2005
[3] Why Not?, Barry Nalebuff & Ian Ayres, Harvard Business School Press, 2003
[4] Weird Ideas That Work, Robert Sutton, Free Press 2002

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