Business figure chasing a butterfly shaped light bulbInnovative ideas can occur at any time.  If you’re like me, some of your best ideas “pop” into your head at the most unexpected times.

I was talking with a friend recently who mentioned that he often comes up with his most creative ideas in the shower.  I found that interesting because I have met many people who have innovative ideas while in the shower.  I also have many creative ideas when I’m driving.

Since we all have creative thoughts at unexpected times, it is important to be prepared for those innovative ideas ahead of time.  To me, being prepared means having a way to record the innovative idea before it “disappears”.  Here are a few ways to be sure you are always prepared to record your innovative thoughts:

  1. Carry a pen/pencil and paper with you at all times – get a small pad of paper and a short pencil that easily fit in your pocket or purse.
  2. If you have innovative ideas in the middle of the night, keep a pad of paper next to your bed to record those ideas.
  3. Use your cell phone.  If you have a smart phone, use a note-taking application or a voice recording application.  If your phone does not have those abilities, send yourself a text message or call your voicemail and leave a message for yourself.
  4. Keep a pad of paper and a pen in your car.  If I’m waiting in my car for an appointment or to pick up one of my kids, I will often use that time as a mini-brainstorming session and write down all of my ideas.
  5. Put a white board in your office or other location just for creative ideas.  I have a white board in my office that is used exclusively for innovative business ideas related to my current projects.

In the comments below, please let me know your favorite system for recording innovative ideas.

gradient circle arrowsInnovation is not a one-time activity.  Many innovative companies are founded on an initial innovative idea, but those companies must continue to innovate if they want to grow.  Successful companies continually look for innovation opportunities that can expand their product offerings, increase sales of existing products or enter a new segment of their market.

Netflix is an example of a company that implements continuous innovation.  Initially, Netflix offered a DVD rental service where DVDs are delivered to a customer’s home by mail.  As online streaming of content increased, Netflix began offering services to stream content directly to customer’s homes.  Many commentators criticized Netflix for this business move because the online streaming service resulted in a drop in revenue from the DVD rental service.  However, based on the popularity of online content streaming, it appears that Netflix made a good decision.

Netflix continues to innovate by streaming its own original programs.  Thus, instead of just providing content distributed by other companies, Netflix now offers its own content.  Additionally, the company has changed the way its own program content is released.  Traditional programs with multiple episodes in a “season” release those episodes once a week over a period of months.  Netflix is changing that traditional model by releasing all episodes of its original programs at the same time.  This allows fans of a program to watch the entire season at their own pace, rather than waiting a week between episodes.

Is your business practicing continuous innovation? If not, today is a perfect day to start discovering innovation opportunities and developing innovative products or services.  Work with other members of your team to identify gaps or unmet needs in your market, then brainstorm to develop solutions that fill those gaps and meet the needs of the market.

AquaNotes Picture

Great product for capturing ideas

I love to feature examples of innovative products.  The product I discuss in this article is a particularly good example because it is an innovative product that helps innovators!  I recently purchased this product, Aqua Notes, which is a notepad that can be used when wet.  This is perfect for a shower, boat, camping trip or a walk in the rain.  I tried the notepad myself, and it works great.  The picture to the left was taken after writing a note while the notepad and pencil were wet.  After the note dried, it was perfectly readable and the paper remained flat – not wrinkled and no curled-up edges.

In previous posts, I have discussed the many different locations where people develop creative ideas.  Over the years, I have talked with many innovators and creative thinkers who often find inspiration while taking a shower.  I’ve lost count of the number of times people have said something like, “someone needs to invent a way to take notes in the shower.”  This product is the answer to that request.  If you are a “creative shower thinker”, this might be the perfect tool for capturing those valuable ideas.

This example illustrates an innovative product that fills a market need.  I was so impressed with the Aqua Notes that I purchased several notepads to give to friends and clients who are creative thinkers.  What can you do in your own business to fill a gap in the marketplace?  Are you talking to customers (or potential customers) and following trends in your industry to identify these gaps?  Filling a gap may not require a new product or service.  Some gaps can be filled by adding a new feature to an existing product or adapting the existing product for sale in a different market segment.

The next time you hear someone in your market say “I wish someone would create a …..”, listen closely – this is valuable information that gives your business an opportunity to fill a marketplace gap.

2014 InnovationHave you set any Innovation Goals for 2014?  As you plan your business activities for the coming year, consider adding some innovation activities to your plan.  Here are a few tips that can help your business discover innovative ideas and turn them into profit.

1. Schedule time for innovation activities.  You can start by scheduling a 10-15 minute block of time for creative thinking or brainstorming.  This can be done alone or with a group of people.  During this time, turn off your phone, email notification, and other distractions.  Dedicate this block of time to thinking about solutions to current problems or thinking about how to further improve your current products/services.

2. Find your innovation environment.  Find the environment that stimulates your creativity.  Some people find energy walking outside or going to a quiet place.  Others are inspired in busy environments, such as a coffee shop or a shopping center.  Find what works for you and put yourself into that environment during your innovation time block.  You may need to experiment with this to find your best environment.  Keep track of where you are and what you are doing when you come up with innovative ideas – then watch for a pattern that identifies your ideal innovation environment.

 3. Get your team involved.  Innovative shouldn’t be limited to a few select people in an organization.  Every business has innovative ideas just waiting to be discovered and turned into profit.  Get everyone on your team involved in the innovation process – you will be surprised by the results.  I have been involved in countless numbers of situations where significant ideas are created by people who are not typically part of the innovation or creative process.

If you have any questions about setting Innovation Goals for 2014, please leave a comment below.  I will personally respond to every question.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-innovation-image29364378Successfully leveraging innovation can affect all areas of your business.  Learning and applying innovation skills can help you develop new products or services, solve problems, and improve the efficiency of your business operations.  Here are a few examples of how you can use innovation to your advantage.

1. Distinguish your Business from Competitors.  Businesses (regardless of size) can distinguish themselves from others in the marketplace by identifying and developing creative ideas.  Rather than simply following “industry standards” and creating more of the same products, apply an Innovation Strategy to develop products that set your company apart from everyone else.  Look for ways to make your products faster, more efficient or more fun to use.  Set a goal to identify problems faced by your market and create solutions to those problems.  When you implement a solution to a problem faced by everyone in your market, you will definitely stand out from the crowd.

2. Get Free Advertising.  When you distinguish yourself as an innovator (or innovative company), you attract media attention.  Think about all the free advertising today’s most innovative companies receive.  When you develop innovative products that solve industry problems or simply improve the lives of individuals, you will receive media coverage.  Additionally, you can benefit from continue reading…

Have you considered writing a book to help expand your business?  I have lots of innovative ideas to grow my own business and provide valuable information to assist business leaders.  One of my objectives for the coming year is to publish several books related to innovation for small- and medium-sized businesses.  I have already outlined one book that I expect to publish within the next two months.  And, I have scheduled more books to write in the coming year.

 

Have you considered writing a book to expand your own business?  Here are some reasons to consider publishing a book:

  1. A book positions your business as a leader in its market or industry.
  2. A book establishes you as an expert in your field and a credible business leader.
  3. A book is the ultimate business card.

In the past, publishing a book has been time-consuming and expensive.  However, with today’s electronic publishing systems, publishing a book can be quick and inexpensive.  The Kindle platform has a huge following and provides a great mechanism for publishing books.

My first book is for business leaders who want to learn techniques for applying innovation to grow their business.  I was able to outline the entire book in a weekend, and now I’m writing the content for the various sections of the book.

Watch for my book in the near future!  Please leave a comment below and tell me about your book plans for the coming year.

Welcome to my blog – Innovation Explained.  My name is Steve Sponseller, and I teach entrepreneurs and business leaders how to tap into the power of innovative ideas to grow their business.  I enjoy working with innovative companies and have more than 20 years of experience counseling companies of all sizes in a variety of different industries.  I have worked as an Electrical Engineer and an Intellectual Property attorney – I am also the founder of my own company, Innovation Strategies, Inc.  These experiences give me a unique perspective on business from both the “inside” and the “outside”.

After working with hundreds of business leaders and innovators, I have developed proven systems and techniques to identify, develop and implement innovations in any business.  These innovations can grow your company by increasing revenue, reducing expenses, providing a competitive edge, positioning the company as an “innovator” in the market, and more.  I also “practice what I preach” by applying my innovation systems and techniques in my own company.  Keep watch for my upcoming book:  Innovation Jumpstart.

The first step to creating an innovation strategy is understanding innovation and how to leverage creative ideas in your business.  This blog provides regular information related to business innovation that you can apply in your own company right away.  Get your free report “Innovation Excellence” using the sign-up box on this page (top-right corner) to start developing your own Innovation Strategy.

Many new fitness products are released into the marketplace every year.  A couple months ago I received an innovative new fitness device as a gift.  I love this little gadget and I’m amazed at the innovative features offered by this fitness tracker.  Since I’m always watching for innovative products and services, I was excited to try out this new fitness tracker.

Fitbit Ultra The device, called a fitbit, is a 21st century pedometer (see picture on the left – click the picture to visit the company’s web site).  The old-fashioned pedometers measured the number of steps a person walked each day.  I had one of those old devices many years ago – I used it for a while, but the novelty wore off quickly.  I often had to adjust the device to be sure it was properly registering my steps.  Counting my steps each day was useful, but the device had no other features.  Also, I had to record my steps each day and then reset the pedometer each morning.

But, my new fitbit is a completely different story.  Yes, it counts my steps – but that’s just the beginning.  This device counts the number of stairs climbed each day, the number of calories burned, sleep patterns, and more.  The fitbit wirelessly communicates with my laptop, which automatically stores my daily steps, stairs climbed, and other data.  Also, an app for my smartphone displays this data and lets me enter other information, such as the glasses of water I drink, the food I eat, and more.  I recharge the device about once a week by connecting it to a docking device that connects to my computer.

The small size allows me to easily carry the fitbit in my pocket or clip it on a shirt sleeve or belt.  I find myself looking at the device many times each day and it helps motivate me to go for a quick walk or climb an extra flight of stairs to meet my daily goals.  And, you can “compete” with your friends that also have a fitbit to see who climbs the most stairs in a day, etc.  This social aspect of fitness provides new motivation to be active every day – and lets me participate with friends all over the world.

I love innovative products like this – taking an existing product (pedometer) and putting a new “twist” on the design that completely changes the functionality and usefulness of the product.  Think about the products/services in your own business.  Can you “update” those products/services to create a whole new user experience?  And, if you have a fitbit, let me know so we can have a friendly fitness competition.

Brainstorming is an important tool for developing new ideas for your business.  Brainstorming activities are also useful in solving problems faced by your business or your industry.

Here are three tips to help you get the most out of your brainstorming sessions.

  1. Schedule Brainstorming Time – Put this activity on your calendar so it is not forgotten or pushed aside by another project.  Schedule as much time as you can, but even a 10 minute brainstorming session can generate a long list of creative ideas.
  2. Record Everything – During your brainstorming activities, write down every idea that comes to mind.  Do not filter out any ideas and never continue reading…

Following business trends (both general trends and trends in your particular industry) is important to the health and long-term success of your business.  Staying aware of trends does not mean that you need to be on the “cutting edge” of every trend.  But, you need to watch those trends so that your business does not become obsolete as your competitors leverage those trends to their advantage.

There are many examples of businesses that failed, at least in part, because they did not recognize trends in their own industry.  Blockbuster Video is one example.  There are many stories and theories regarding the reasons for the downfall of Blockbuster.  But, most business analysts agree continue reading…

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