Browsing Posts in Business Innovation

In recent posts on this blog, I mentioned that a common innovation question is “How do I create innovations in my business?”  One of the four key steps in leveraging innovation is to evaluate all creative ideas developed in your business.

To properly evaluate innovations, a reliable tracking system is necessary to capture all creative ideas and monitor the evaluation and implementation of those ideas.

When creating an Evaluation Group to review innovative ideas, include individuals with different job functions in the company.  Many groups I work with include individuals involved in sales, marketing, product development, customer service and production.  These different job functions have different perspectives and can identify potential problems related to certain ideas.  Also, people with different perspectives can expand on the initial ideas based on their additional knowledge or expertise in a particular area.

After evaluating innovations, the tracking system is updated to indicate the current status of the innovation and the next step in the analysis or development process.  Review and update the status of active ideas on a regular basis.

Begin a regular system of innovation analysis to evaluate the creative ideas that are growing in your business.  Select the most appropriate ideas to leverage for the maximum benefit to your company.

Here’s one of my favorite examples of a valuable innovation!  I’ll bet you never thought a brownie pan could be the subject of an innovative new design. Here’s a quick analysis of the delicious innovation process.

The Problem: Many people like brownies with “chewy edges” – the edge that contacts the baking pan.  But, a traditional rectangular baking dish has a limited number of brownies with chewy edges – and most of those brownies only have one chewy edge (four “lucky” corner pieces have two chewy edges).

The Solution: Design a new brownie pan that has a different shape.  Here’s a picture of the innovative brownie pan showing the new shape that produces lots of edges.

The new design produces a batch of brownies where every brownie has at least two chewy edges, thus solving the problem mentioned above.  An added benefit: the new design provides more uniform cooking so there are fewer undercooked center pieces and burned edge pieces.

A larger version of this baking pan is available to make lasagna.

How about lasagna and brownies for dinner tonight!

When people discuss “innovators” in your industry, do they mention your company?  If not, you can start taking steps today to establish your business as an innovator and begin attracting loyal customers and fans.

What companies do you believe are leaders and innovators in their market?  Do you follow these companies in anticipation of their next product or service announcement?  This type of position in any industry can generate lots of attention: customers talk about your company online and with friends, and publications write about your company and its products. This attention strengthens your competitive position in the marketplace.

If you are not yet seen as an innovator in your industry, you can change this perception. As your business develops innovations and introduces them to the market, the business will position itself as a source of creative ideas. People will take notice and begin following your activities and announcements.

You can leverage your business’ innovative activities through advertising, social media and other announcements to show customers (and potential customers) that your business is a leader.  Start identifying innovations today by looking for new products or new features that satisfy unmet needs in your industry.

Share your innovation success stories in the comment section below.

Podcasting has been around for several years.  So, how can it be “innovative”?

I’m working on my own Podcast related to Business Innovation – I will post a message here when the first episode is ready.  For my business, Podcasting is something new – and a step outside my comfort zone.

Many people I have talked to about innovation receive most of their information about business innovation from books or magazines.  So, it occurred to me that there may be a “need” for innovation-related information distributed in a format other than print media.  This audio-based format will be a new option for people to receive  information from me about innovation.

So, I am now scheduling regular Teleseminars and will soon complete my first Podcast episode.  I’m learning about Podcasts from a friend of mine who is an expert on the topic.

If you want to be the first to hear about my upcoming Teleseminars and Podcast episodes, enter your first name and email address in the form at the top right corner of this page.  I will send you advanced notice of all my upcoming events and related information.

If you have any suggestions for Teleseminar or Podcast topics, please leave a comment below.

Brainstorming is a great way to develop creative business ideas to grow your company.  I’ve worked with people who come up with great ideas in individual brainstorming sessions, especially when they find the perfect environment to do their creative thinking.  I also know innovators who are very effective in innovation brainstorming groups – usually small groups of 4-6 people.

If you’re looking for a way to develop creative ideas for your business, try combining these two activities to produce even greater results.  Here’s the approach I use myself:

1. Individual Brainstorming – Spend time brainstorming by yourself.  You can brainstorm for new products or creative ideas that solve problems in your own business or in your industry.  Record all of your ideas and don’t lose that list.

2. Group Brainstorming – Use the ideas on the list you developed during your individual brainstorming process as “seeds” for your group brainstorming discussions.  Let the other members of the group further develop your ideas and develop new ideas based on your “seeds”.

I like this two-step approach to innovation brainstorming because it allows me to freely come up with my initial ideas, then expand on those ideas with the input of others.  This approach has produced some great innovations for the companies I work with.

A baseball team in New York (the Hudson Valley Renegades) is offering free tickets every Monday to iPad owners.  This promotion appears to be in response to a decision by a different major league baseball team in the same area not to allow iPads into their stadium.   To capitalize on the publicity received by the other team, the Hudson Valley Renegades are encouraging fans to bring their iPads to the stadium.  In addition to free tickets every Monday to all iPad owners, the team is providing a support booth to help fans set up various social media services.

This is an innovative marketing approach to attract fans and get some “free advertising” for the team.  I’m not sure what the team is doing on Mondays to interact with the fans that bring iPads, but here are a couple possibilities.  The team could ask the iPad users to tweet during the game using a particular hash tag, then randomly select one of the tweets and give that person a prize.  The team could also send messages (tweets, text messages or emails) to fans at the game providing additional information about the players, statistics for the game, specials at the concessions, etc.

How can you apply similar innovative marketing techniques in your business?

Many businesses are looking for new ways to generate income in today’s difficult economy.

New business innovation is one way to increase revenue by developing new products or enhancing existing products to increase sales.  In today’s economy, people are still buying products and services, but often purchasing things they already have.  For example, people are still buying televisions, cellular phones and video game systems.  But, today, many people are less likely to buy a new type of product they have never purchased.

Keeping this in mind, when developing innovation in your business consider adding new features to your existing products that make the product faster, cheaper or more useful.  Assuming people are already buying your type of product, you can create a competitive edge if your product provides new features or a better value to the consumer.

If you are going to create a new product, be sure that the market for that type of product is already established.  In other words, make sure that people are already buying that type of product.

In today’s economy, trying to create a new product category can be difficult and expensive.  There are many ways to apply innovation for business that do not require “teaching” people that they need a new type of product.

Start applying the innovation process in your business to find ways to make your current products or services stand out in the marketplace – and watch your business grow.

For several weeks, I have been “encouraged” by two business colleagues to host teleseminars that help entrepreneurs and business leaders apply innovation in their business.  I am accepting this “challenge” and committing to host several free teleseminars in the coming weeks.

I have a list of frequently asked questions about innovation as well as a list of questions that business leaders should ask about innovation in their business.  I will be answering these questions in my upcoming teleseminars.  However, I want to be sure I answer the questions of everyone who follows this blog, reads my articles, etc.  So, I am asking you to submit your questions by adding a comment to this post.  I will do my best to answer all questions during one of my teleseminars – dates to be announced soon.  If you would like to receive email notification of these teleseminars (and receive a free copy of my Innovation Excellence report), click here.

Here’s a sample of the questions I will be answering:

  • Why does my business need an innovation strategy?
  • My business is not a technology-based business, does innovation apply to my company?
  • How do I get started with an innovation plan?
  • Who in my organization should I include in the innovation process?
  • Can my business afford an innovation strategy?

Please submit your innovation questions by adding a comment to this post.

Writing 30 blog posts in 30 days is not as difficult as I originally thought.  Each time I wrote a blog post, I came up with at least two additional ideas for future blog posts, articles and other content.  So, I now have a long list of topics to write about!

Also, most of my 30 blog posts are finding their way into my upcoming course on developing innovation strategies to grow a business.  Writing these 30 posts kept me thinking about that course every day and I worked on its content several times each week.  I have been slowly “working” on this course for several months.  As a result of the 30 day blogging challenge,  I will be ready to launch the course in the next week or two.

Am I finished blogging now that the 30 days are over? Absolutely Not!  Now that I know how easy it is to prepare blog posts, I will be posting on a regular basis.  Probably not every day, but at least several times every week.

Unexpected Benefits:  I met some great people during this 30 day challenge – other entrepreneurs and business leaders who are passionate about their business.   I was interviewed by a fantastic person, Terrie Wurzbacher.  Thanks to her interview, I am going to start scheduling my own teleseminars on various innovation topics of interest to business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Thanks to Connie Green for offering this challenge and supporting all participants in boosting their online presence.

Please continue visiting my blog – I have plenty of new content on the way!

Have you ever considered innovating your approach to customer service?

Companies have provided phone-based customer service for several decades.  Today, most companies continue to offer this option for customers or clients wanting to communicate with the company.

With the growth of the Internet and email usage, many companies have added email customer support and/or ticket-based systems.  These systems give the customer another option by allowing customers to submit questions or customer service requests at any time, and receive responses at any time.  This approach eliminates the need for the customer to communicate “live” with the company.

A newer trend is to offer customer support via Twitter.  This communication can be almost real-time, and gives customers yet another way to interact with your company.  Companies providing support via Twitter have at least one customer service representative that monitors “tweets” that mention the Twitter user name of the business.  These tweets may be specifically directed to the company or may simply mention the company.  Either way, the customer service representative can respond to these messages quickly – often within a few minutes.

Another new option being offered by some companies is a smart phone application (such as an iPhone application) that allows a user to submit customer service requests and obtain other information about the company’s products and services.

By providing multiple options for your customers to obtain support, you allow your customer to choose the communication method that is most desirable or most practical at that time.  Your customer service representatives can typically handle customer requests from multiple sources at the same time, such as telephone, email and twitter.

By allowing your customers to choose among several options for obtaining customer service, you are being more responsive to your customer’s needs, which results in happier customers.

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