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

My family and I are enjoying a relaxing holiday weekend (Memorial Day in the United States).

I’m often surprised how many people develop creative ideas when they are relaxing or doing something that is not focused on creative thinking.  Often, ideas “pop” into people’s minds at the most unexpected (and unplanned) times.

This happened to me last week.  I had been working all morning on various business projects.  I took a break to go play with our dogs in the back yard.  While I was throwing toys for the dogs, I was not thinking about my business projects.  But, while playing I came up with a fantastic idea for a new project that can help small business owners.  When I finished playing with the dogs, I quickly took action on the idea and shared it with a business partner that can help me implement the idea.  She was excited too and said “You should play with your dogs more often!”

I’m off to do some more “relaxing” with my family – I can’t wait to see what ideas come to me this afternoon.

Please share your own creative experiences by leaving a comment below.

Can a soccer shoe be innovative?  Absolutely!

Shoe manufacturer Adidas has developed an innovative soccer shoe that weighs only 5.8 ounces.  The manufacturer says these are the lightest soccer shoes on the market – the average soccer shoe weighs about 10 ounces.

Adidas applied several innovations in developing this new shoe – including a new approach to manufacturing the sole of the shoe as well as a new material used in the upper portion of the shoe.  To see all the details about this new soccer shoe, click here to read the article in Fast Company magazine.

Tell us about your favorite innovation by leaving a comment below.

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!

Many factors can affect your ability to innovate and think creatively.  Location, noise/activity level and time of day all have an influence on your innovative thinking.  A recent article suggests that the image of a conventional light bulb (an incandescent bulb) improves a viewer’s insight and creative thinking.  Click here to read the full article in Fast Company.

The light bulb is used regularly as an indicator of creative ideas and innovations.  However, this article (and the related study) suggests that surrounding yourself with innovative objects or symbols – such as the conventional light bulb – improves creativity.  This study compared the performance of participants who viewed a conventional light bulb as compared to those who viewed an overhead fluorescent light.

The results of the study are based on the presence of the light bulb, not the actual light emitted by the bulb.  The bulb itself can be disconnected from an electrical socket and still have a positive influence on a person’s thinking ability.  The “power” of the conventional light bulb appears to be its symbolic value as an indicator of innovation and creative thinking.

What other symbols come to mind when you think of Innovation?

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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