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!

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.

Innovations and creative ideas for your business can pop into your head at any time.  These spontaneous ideas can be valuable to your business and should be recorded for future thought.  But, you never know when the next random idea will “appear”.

If you want to regularly develop more creative ideas for your business, schedule a brainstorming session.  Before scheduling the brainstorming session, be sure you know the best environment for your creative thinking.  Pick a time, location and setting that supports you in developing innovative ideas – read my blog post on Finding Your Innovation Environment for more details.

There are many techniques for brainstorming new ideas.  One technique involves identifying an unmet need in your own company or in your market.  Brainstorm for solutions to satisfy that unmet need.  Your solutions may include new products, new services, or adding new features to existing products or services.  Record all ideas you generate during your brainstorming session (using pencil and paper, a computer, a smartphone, an audio recorder, etc.)  You don’t need to understand all the details necessary to implement the solutions – just get the ideas recorded and you can work out the details later.

I recently scheduled a brainstorming session for myself to identify a list of article topics related to business innovation.  My list contains article titles and topics, but not the details of each article.  My brainstorming session generated a list of 28 article titles/topics in a short period of time.  I will schedule several follow-up brainstorming sessions to fill in the details for each article in my list.

Please share information about your successful brainstorming sessions here.

I’ve been helping entrepreneurs, innovators and business leaders leverage innovations for over 15 years.  With all that work in innovation, I sometimes forget to take action and implement new innovation strategies in my own business.  So, it’s time to take some innovation action!

I am participating in the “100 Articles in 100 Days” challenge by EzineArticles.  I will be preparing and publishing 100 articles – approximately one article per day for the next 100 days – starting today!  I will be writing articles about business innovation, business growth and related subjects.  I already have a list of topics for articles, but the list is not up to 100 yet!

So, I’m asking for your support.  If you have any questions about how to leverage innovation in your business, please let me know and I’ll answer those questions in my articles.  Also, if you have any general suggestions for article topics related to business and innovation, please leave a comment here, send them to me via twitter (@stevesponseller), or comment on my Facebook Fan Page (http://www.facebook.com/innovationstrategies).

I will be posting updates on my progress to this blog.  You can also read my latest articles by visiting http://www.ArticlesBySteve.com (scroll to the bottom of that page for a list of articles).

When working with clients to develop an innovation strategy, we typically discuss ways to innovate internal business procedures.  We spend time brainstorming on the various steps in the internal business procedures and look for ways to simplify or eliminate steps to streamline those procedures.

However, before we get to the issue of innovating a business procedure, there’s a preliminary question:  Is the procedure necessary?

I recently worked with a company that performs repair services on electronic appliances. The company had a detailed “inventory procedure” that was completed every morning before the store opened. The procedure required an employee to print a report of all “open” repair orders from the computer.  Then, the employee handling the inventory procedure that morning checked to be sure that every appliance in for repair was actually in the store.  The employee manually checked off each appliance on the list.

This process took over an hour each morning, and the employees hated it. When I began asking questions about the procedure, I learned that the completed checklist was filed away and never used again.  And, if they could not find an appliance shown on the printed list, a notation was made on the list, but no effort was made to determine what happened to the missing appliance.  When I asked why they did this, the answer was “that’s what’s in our business policies and procedures”.  After discussing the procedure with several people, including store managers, I learned that there was no reason to continue that daily procedure.

There’s no bigger waste of time and resources than making an effort to optimize a business procedure that doesn’t need to be performed in the first place.

Take a look at your own internal business procedures and be sure there is a valid business reason for continuing those procedures.  I encourage you to share your discoveries and your thoughts.

To leverage innovations that grow your business, you need to implement a plan that continually encourages innovation throughout your company. Teaching everyone in your organization about creativity and innovation helps develop an innovation culture that produces a constant flow of creative ideas.

You can start building an innovation culture in your business by:

  1. Teaching everyone in your business about the innovation process and encourage them to submit creative ideas. Don’t limit creative activities to a particular department or group of individuals. I have seen valuable innovations developed by people with different backgrounds, experience, and roles within a company.
  2. Giving examples of innovations (in your own company or other companies) that have provided a boost to the company by increasing revenue, reducing expenses or streamlining business procedures. Show that relatively simple innovations can have a significant impact on the business.
  3. Celebrating and rewarding innovation in your business.  Provide an innovation framework that includes innovation contests, brainstorming events and an innovation reward program.

Start creating a culture of innovation in your business today by educating everyone in your business about the innovation process and how it can benefit the business.  Please share your comments below and tell us about the innovation culture in your business.

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