I was recently shopping for new lunch boxes for my kids to carry their lunch to school.  If you have not shopped for lunch boxes/bags lately, you may be surprised at the number of options.  Hard-sided lunch boxes made of metal or hard plastic.  Soft-sided bags of varying shapes and sizes.  And, of course, a huge variety of colors, designs and cartoon characters.

With previous lunch boxes, we have included a re-usable ice pack to keep the contents of the lunch box cold.  This approach works pretty well, but sometimes the ice pack “crushes” the food or the ice pack begins to leak blue liquid all over the contents of the lunch box.

As I reviewed the vast selection of lunch boxes at a local store, I noticed a new type of soft-sided lunch bag that had “built-in” ice.  The advertising materials for the lunch bag said “No Ice Needed!  It’s Built-In!”.  This innovative design includes a freezable gel in the sides of the lunch bag.  So, instead of putting an ice pack into the lunch bag to keep the contents cool, you put the entire lunch bag in the freezer overnight to chill the gel in the sides of the bag.  In the morning, you take the lunch bag out of the freezer and put the lunch inside.  The frozen gel keeps the contents of the lunch bag cool until lunch time.

I love this idea.  The lunch bag does a wonderful job of keeping the contents cool until lunch time.  I believe it does a better job than the old ice packs we used in the past.  Now I don’t have to worry about leaking ice packs or a shifting ice pack that slides to one end of the lunch bag and only keeps part of the lunch cool.

This creative product is an innovation example that combines two existing products to generate a new product providing new benefits to the customer.  This innovation adds a new feature that simplifies use of the product, rather than making it more complicated.  When looking for ways to provide more value to your own clients, don’t forget to consider simplifying your product or service for the benefit of your client.

There’s a common misconception that innovation is just for large companies.  However, identifying and developing creative ideas can benefit companies of all sizes – including small businesses that are just getting started.  Don’t wait until your business grows to a particular size to begin developing an innovation strategy – you may miss some great opportunities.

You don’t need a Research & Development Department or an Engineering Staff to take advantage of creative thinking in your business.  In fact, many small businesses can bring creative ideas to market faster than large corporations because of their smaller size.  Take advantage of the flexibility available to small companies and start the innovation process today.

Here’s all you need to start leveraging innovative ideas:

  1. At least one person willing to spend some time doing “creative thinking”.
  2. At least one “seed” idea.  This “seed” can be a problem or unmet need in your industry or in your own business.  Creative thinking exercises can start with seed ideas to develop potential solutions to these problems or unmet needs.
  3. A way to record the creative ideas (paper/pencil, computer, audio recorder or a white board) – even a napkin and a crayon works (I’ve done this myself several times in restaurants).  If you use a white board, be sure to take a picture of the board before it’s erased or record the ideas using paper or a computer.
  4. A system to evaluate creative ideas.  I have found that a small group of 4-6 people works well for evaluating creative ideas and refining those ideas into products or services that can be implemented in a business.

This is all you need to get started.  You can add more steps and activities as your innovation strategy develops – but keep things simple in the beginning.

Identifying creative ideas is a great way to grow your business.  Using innovation contests and other activities, your organization can and develop a culture of creativity that generates plenty of creative ideas.  These creative ideas can be developed into innovations that provide considerable value to the business.

However, creating a list of innovative ideas is not enough.  You must take action!

Here are several ways to start taking action:

  1. Evaluate the ideas on your list. Get a group of people from different parts of your business (different job functions) and review the ideas submitted.  Perform a cost-benefit analysis on the most promising ideas.  Initially, look for ideas that can be implemented quickly and are likely to produce a significant result to the bottom line.
  2. Prioritize the ideas. Perform an initial ranking of the ideas – be sure to include ideas that are “short term” projects as well as “long term” projects that take more time or resources to implement, but can provide significant long-term growth for the business.
  3. Take steps to implement one or more of the ideas on the list. Take steps to begin implementing at least one of the ideas on your list.  The first step may be to perform further investigation into the feasibility of the idea – such as seeking input from various groups in the company to determine costs, timing, or potential obstacles to address when implementing the idea.

Track the results of the innovative ideas implemented in your business.  For example, you can track increase in revenue, reduction in expenses and customer growth.  Celebrate the positive results of your innovation to encourage further creativity and innovation.

Start building your list of creative ideas today and take action on those ideas to grow your business.

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.

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that a common innovation question is “How do I create innovations in my business?”  Yesterday I discussed the first step in leveraging innovation:  identifying creative ideas that can be developed into useful innovations.

The next step is to develop an innovation culture.  Encourage people in all areas of your business to watch for innovative ideas and record the ideas. Show people in your organization the value of creative ideas and how those ideas can strengthen the company. These creative ideas are “seeds” that can grow into valuable innovations.  As your business starts leveraging innovations, share those success stories and celebrate successful innovation throughout your company.

Provide fun educational material that explains how to discover creative ideas, such as when solving problems, brainstorming, and analyzing trends in your industry.  Offer examples of creative ideas in other businesses that resulted in valuable innovations for those companies.  Although some examples may be in different industries, they can be valuable examples to illustrate the innovation process.  Focus on the underlying system that supported the identification and development of innovations in these examples.  Then, encourage individuals to apply a similar approach in your own organization.

Start developing a culture of innovation today to generate a steady stream of creative ideas that will accelerate your business.

A question I am frequently asked is “How do I create innovations in my business?”  To address this common question, I created the acronym IDEA, which describes a system for leveraging innovation in your business.  The first letter “I” represents “Identify All Innovations“.

The first step in leveraging innovation is to begin identifying creative ideas that can be developed into useful innovations.  If you don’t capture these creative ideas, there’s nothing to build upon.  Think of creative ideas as the “seeds” that, with proper attention and care, can grow into valuable business innovations.

Innovative ideas are often generated from problem solving exercises, brainstorming sessions and other activities.  These ideas must be captured and recorded for future evaluation or further brainstorming sessions.  Many businesses use these  ideas as “seeds” for future discussions.  For example, the initial idea may be a broad concept that needs to be refined into a product or service appropriate for the business.  Additional brainstorming on the broad idea may produce multiple approaches to implement the idea, thus “growing an innovation” from the idea seed.

Start finding those creative ideas today to begin identifying innovations that will grow your business.

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.

Many businesses limit innovative activities to particular individuals or particular departments in the organization.  However, this approach may result in missing valuable innovations that could strengthen the business.

A better approach is to involve people throughout the organization and start building a culture of innovation.  Think of your business as an “innovation team”.  People from different parts of the company and with different job functions can work together as a team for purposes of generating innovations.  Everyone has creative ideas, so everyone should be involved in the process of generating innovations.  Train everyone on the Team how to identify innovative ideas and provide examples of successful innovations (in your business or other organizations) that produced dramatic results for the company.

Schedule innovation contests and structured brainstorming sessions to generate creative ideas.  Celebrate successful innovations that increase revenue, reduce expenses, or strengthen the company’s competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Go put on your “Team Innovation” hat today and start developing an innovation culture in your business.

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.

Powered by WordPress Web Design by SRS Solutions © 2017 Innovation Explained Design by SRS Solutions