Here’s an example of a situation where someone found a solution to a problem.  However, they forgot to consider the new problems caused by their solution!

Many cities are installing new traffic signals (or modifying existing signals) to use low-energy light bulbs, which results in savings on energy costs.  However, in cold climates these energy-efficient light bulbs have a problem.  Some cities like Green Bay, Chicago and Minneapolis are having difficulties when continue reading…

I regularly use case studies to teach my clients about innovation.  Case studies show a particular example of a business innovation, but can be generalized to apply to many businesses in a variety of markets.  The following case study describes an innovation developed at one of my clients.

A law firm regularly filed documents with a government agency by first class mail.  Each mailing would include a postcard addressed to the law firm that was date-stamped by the government agency and returned to the law firm.  The postcard acted as a receipt that the documents were received by the agency.

The law firm had an internal procedure that required each postcard to be stored in a physical file containing the documents mailed to the government agency.  These physical files were also used regularly by attorneys and support staff in the law firm.  Administrative employees spent a significant amount of continue reading…

Many innovations solve problems or simply make life easier.  Here’s a wonderful example of using innovation to solve a current problem.

Problem:  Kids with Diabetes need to monitor their blood sugar level throughout the day.  This involves an uncomfortable finger prick each time their blood sugar level is tested.  Kids may attempt to avoid this daily testing, which may jeopardize their health.

Solution:  Combine the blood sugar testing procedure with something kids enjoy … continue reading…

I’ve met many business leaders and entrepreneurs that don’t understand how to leverage innovation in small businesses.  These individuals often believe that business innovation is for large companies that employ scientists and have a large research and development department.  However, many small businesses can enjoy significant benefits from a well-designed innovation strategy.

In some cases, small businesses can do a better job at identifying and implementing innovations than a larger company.  These smaller companies can often act quickly to take advantage of creative ideas and get those ideas into the market by incorporating them into the company’s product or service.  This quick action gives the smaller company a competitive edge when they are continue reading…

Businesses use many techniques to develop innovations.  One approach to innovation development deals with problems experienced in your own business or in your industry.  Problems provide an opportunity for innovation by asking (and answering) five key questions:

  1. What Happened? Identify details regarding the specific problem and determine whether the problem is related to a client, a product, a service, your entire industry, or a problem with your internal business procedures.  Determine exactly what happened, such as dates, locations, people/businesses involved and other relevant details.  These details will be used later to help prevent future problems.
  2. Why Did it Happen? Determine why the problem occurred by evaluating when it happened and why the problem occurred at this time, but has not happened before.  Identify what details were different this time that may have caused the problem.  Determine continue reading…

In my last post, I identified several road blocks to innovation.  In the information below, I discuss several ways to overcome these road blocks and use innovation in your business.

A first step to leveraging innovation in your business includes learning how to stimulate new innovation throughout your company.  This begins by teaching the importance of innovation to the business leaders in your organization.  Once they understand the business growth opportunities provided by an innovation strategy, they can share this knowledge with other employees in the company.  This approach leverages the creative thinking of people in all parts of the company and builds a valuable innovation culture.

As part of the innovation education process, show continue reading…

Innovations can expand a company’s existing product line or add new services related to those existing products.  For example, a company may find a new use for their products that lets them expand into a new market, which attracts a new group of customers.  Selling products in multiple markets increases overall sales and reduces the impact on the bottom line if there’s a slow-down in one market.

Other business innovations may add new features to existing products.  One way to identify new features that may boost sales is to review customer feedback, market research and problems identified by market commentators.  If your existing customers are requesting a particular feature, there are likely continue reading…

Implementing an innovation strategy in your business may seem overwhelming at first.  I talk with many business leaders who are unclear about how to leverage innovation in their company.  I often hear something like “We are not a technology company, innovation doesn’t apply to us.”  Nothing is further from the truth.  All companies can benefit from innovation, regardless of size, industry or location.

Many business leaders fail to implement an innovation strategy because they don’t know how to get started and believe that it must be a time-consuming process.  However, the innovation process can be separated into a series of small steps that continue reading…

An Innovation Strategy provides many opportunities to reduce your company’s expenses. Properly managed innovation can streamline internal procedures, enhance the product development process, and simplify manufacturing operations, all of which can reduce business costs.

Innovating internal procedures includes managing the flow of information and documents throughout the company, and managing the handling and prioritizing of internal tasks. In some situations, innovating an internal procedure eliminates several steps or bottlenecks in the existing procedures. The streamlining of manufacturing and development procedures can accelerate the manufacturing or development time and cost, which results in a cost savings to the business.

When evaluating a business procedure, look for steps in the procedure that are not necessary, and eliminate those steps.  I have worked with several clients that were preforming internal procedures that were unnecessary.  When asked why they were performing the procedures, a common answer was continue reading…

Innovation provides many ways to increase revenue in your business. Properly managed innovation can increase sales of products or services.  An increase in sales can result from new products or services, as well as the introduction of new features for existing products or services.

Increased business revenue can result from:

  1. New customers that are attracted to the innovative products or new product features.
  2. Existing customers that purchase more of the new products or purchase the new products in addition to the products they previously purchased.
  3. Existing customers that purchase more frequently due to the new product innovations.

For example, certain individuals may not have purchased a particular type of electronic device due to perceived problems or confusion with operating the device.  However, when a version of the device with an innovative user interface is developed by a new company, these individuals purchase the product from the new company due to the ease of use.  In this example, the innovative product brings new customers into the market and increased revenue for that company.

When developing an Innovation Plan, be sure to consider opportunities to increase business revenue with both existing customers and new customers.  Also, consider how innovative products (and product features) can attract new customers who have not previously purchased products in your market.

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