I’m often asked the question “How does innovation ‘fit’ in my company?”  Many people believe innovations are limited to technology-based companies or restricted to large corporations with research departments.  But, I have seen countless innovations in all types of businesses in a variety of industries.  Many valuable innovations have been developed in “non-technology” companies.

For any business I’m helping to develop an innovation strategy, I point out the following three ways to innovate a business.  There are other categories of innovation, but these three provide a great start and give all businesses lots of ideas to work with.

  1. Create Something New – Think about new products or services that can expand your existing business, or allow you to grow into a new market.  Consider unmet needs in your market, customer suggestions and customer complaints as starting points for brainstorming new products or services.
  2. Modify Something that Already Exists – How can you modify existing procedures, improve product operation, improve efficiency, or add a new feature to your products or services? A new “feature” can be a simplification of something (such as a simpler user interface), not necessarily something that adds complexity to a product.  Ask people to finish the statement “Wouldn’t our product be amazing if it could _____”  Look for new features that will create a “buzz” in the market, which increases sales and expands your customer base.
  3. Leverage An Existing Item – Many businesses have identified innovative ideas within their company and found ways to generate new revenue streams by sharing those innovations with other companies (not competitors). You may have an internal procedure or a manufacturing process that can benefit companies in other industries.  Consider licensing your innovations or “know how” to other companies to create an additional revenue stream.  Of course, you need to be careful how you license your innovations and which companies you license.

Pick at least one of these strategies for identifying innovations in your business and get started today.  Encourage participation by other people in your company and I think you will be surprised by the number of creative ideas you will generate.