Great ideas

Great ideas are generated in different ways. Sometimes an idea may simply be when a company takes advantage of an opportunity to extend its product range, to offer more choice to existing customers. Or a great idea could allow a company to enter a market which was closed to it before.

Companies which are prepared to spend a lot on R&D may make a breakthrough by having an original idea for a product which others later copy, for example Apple and iPod.

On the other hand, some products are developed in response to customer research. They come from customer ideas. These products are made to meet a need, to satisfy customer demand. Or the product does something similar to another product, but faster, so it saves time. Some people will buy new products because the product raises their status – gives them a new, more upmarket image.

Other people will buy any “green” product which reduces waste or protects the environment, even if it is more expensive. And if an idea is really good and the product fills a gap in the market, it may even win an award for innovation.



Let’s now imagine some R&D specialists in a manufacturing company saying:


We were trying to produce a new design when suddenly we had a great idea.


The choice of grammar tenses used here suggests that “trying to produce a new design” was a longer process, and “having a great idea” a short, sudden event. So we can formulate a rule that the longer tense – past continuous (“were trying”) is used for such longer actions and the short in its form past simple (“had”) – for single, short events.



Exercise 1


Following that rule, complete the text below – a success story based on a great idea with the correct form of the verbs: past simple or past continuous.


In many parts of the world, Max Factor has become a famous brand of cosmetics. Yet few people know that Max Factor, who was born in Poland in 1877, is also the name of the inventor of those cosmetics. Apparently, it was while Max 1. worked / was working as an apprentice to a pharmacist, mixing all kinds of potions, that he 2. developed / was developing an interest in cosmetics. He 3. lived / was living in Moscow when he 4. opened / was opening his own shop, selling a range of handmade cosmetics.

The story goes that one day, some members of the Russian upper class 5. noticed / was noticing the beautiful make-up worn by some travelling theatre actors who 6. performed / were performing for them. So they 7. appointed / were appointing Max Factor the cosmetics expert for the royal family.

In 1904, Factor 8. emigrated / was emigrating to the USA. He 9. created / was creating a new kind of make-up for cinema actors in Los Angeles, where he 10. lived / was living. By the time he 11. introduced / was introducing his products to the public, all major actresses 12. visited / were visiting his salon.


Exercise 2


In both texts above find these words and expressions:


1. wykorzystać sposobność __________________________________
2. rozszerzyć asortyment produktów __________________________________
3. wejść na rynek __________________________________
4. dokonać przełomu __________________________________
5. zaspokoić potrzebę __________________________________
6. wizerunek z górnej półki __________________________________
7. wypełnić lukę w rynku __________________________________
8. rozwinąć zainteresowanie __________________________________




(from both the reading text and Ex.1 text)



to generate – generować
to take advantage of – wykorzyst(yw)ać
opportunity – sposobność
to extend – rozszerzyć
product range – asortyment produktów
to enter a market – wejść na rynek
R&D (research and development) – badania i rozwój
breakthrough – przełom
to copy – kopiować, naśladować
in response to – w odpowiedzi na
customer research – badanie klientów
to meet / to satisfy – zaspokoić
demand – popyt
to raise – podnosić
upmarket – z górnej półki
waste – odpady
to protect – chronić
environment – środowisko
to fill a gap – wypełnić lukę
to win an award – zdobyć nagrodę
innovation – innowacja
inventor – wynalazca
apprentice – praktykant
potion – mikstura
to develop an interest – rozwinąć zainteresowanie
range – zakres, gama
handmade – ręcznie wykonany
to appoint – mianować


download lesson (pdf)



1. was working
2. developed
3. was living
4. opened
5. noticed
6. were performing
7. appointed
8. emigrated
9. created
10. lived
11. introduced
12. were visiting
1. to take advantage of an opportunity
2. to extend product range
3. to enter a market
4. to make a breakthrough
5. to meet a need
6. upmarket image
7. to fill a gap in the market
8. to develop an interest