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.

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?

I created the following video using You Tube’s Search Story.

What do you think?  You can create your own Search Story (free) at http://www.youtube.com/searchstories

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