Through the Ice Clearly
Most of us have an image of an igloo (ice house) as being a solid dome with a small tunnel for entering and exiting. I assumed that there would be a candle or some other light source within the igloo. In reality, Eskimos would construct windows in their igloos. These windows would be made of clear ice several inches thick, mounted in a snow "frame" within the igloo walls and then sealed with additional snow. To light the igloo, the Eskimos would strategically place a block of white snow next to this ice window, angling this snow block to reflect sunlight optimally through the window into the igloo. There are Inuk sayings similar to "May your igloo rooms be well lighted." The ultimate "natural lighting" solution!
Trying to sell ice to an Eskimo would involve understanding the current needs of the Eskimo in real time, as these needs would change from moment to moment based on the bone-chilling cold, hunting success or failure, impending weather changes, etc. Eskimos would be highly informed and picky ice buyers!
The point of all this ice-and-snow discussion is to emphasize that consumers generally know exactly what they want and need. Allakariallak knew exactly what the ice and snow could be made to do for himself and his family. It's the out-of-the-box innovative thinking that companies are expected to deliver through new, innovative products. Selling ice to an Eskimo involves creating "better ice" that meets the Eskimo's needs in a better way than the commoditized resources already available to him.
As long as we sell products that have a high transformative value relative to the consumer's wants and needs, we're likely to be successful in our sales efforts. If we generalize the consumer's needs into simply a "unique and wide variety of ice," then our sales efforts will likely fail. It's the uses and dependencies on "ice" that are critical; these are the areas that our innovations must target.