With innovation and technology speeding faster than ever, it’s a tough target to keep up with. And if you can’t stay innovative, you can quickly be left behind. Find out the five innovation principles that will help jumpstart your inner creativity and deepen your pockets.
Every business dreams of leaving a legacy. These days, making it pass your first year is tough enough. Many forward thinkers have ideas that they hope could change the world, but hardly any will ever see their dreams come true. Hard work and focus is just the vehicle that might get you there, but innovation will be the gas that will keep your engine running.
Boston Consulting Group surveyed 1,060 executives and found some convincing facts about what are driving big businesses today. Innovation remains a top strategic precedence for many companies, with 72 percent of executives ranking it a top-three strategic priority. More than half of the execs were dissatisfied with returns on investments in innovation. Although blue-chip CEOs may be spending huge budgets on innovation, should not mean small businesses cannot compete with them. Small businesses can adapt and react quickly, and often don’t get toppled in the deadly process of killing innovation with “no change” attitudes from risk-averse shareholders.
Donald Sheelen, an innovation consultant, has created and managed over $1 billion worth of innovative products. “Innovation is the lifeblood of any organization.” Sheelan emphasizes that “without it, not only is their no growth, but, inevitably, a slow death.”
Only two-thirds of new small businesses survive at least two years, and just 44 percent survive at least four years, according to a study by the U.S. Small Business Association. Here are some innovation principles that every entrepreneurs should consider if they don’t want to be another startup casualty.
Jump the next curve.
Great innovators are not trying to do things ten percent better; they are trying to do it ten times better. Innovation is the act of introducing something new. The power of the web means startups no longer have to build global infrastructure to reach a worldwide market. This allows for companies like Google, eBay, Facebook, and YouTube to scale their businesses unconventionally fast. They have jumped the next curve and invented new curves to jump on. They are reorganizing how society operates in brilliant and novel ways. It is their awareness of what’s upcoming that are allowing these young entrepreneurs to be worth billions.
So how can you start thinking like a great innovator? First off, you must be versed on what are the latest in innovation. The success elite are lifelong learners. Talk to your customer or potential market and ask what they want. Consumer-centric innovation may be the most powerful way to raise a company’s innovation success rate because you are producing exactly what your customer wants.
Get fresh eyes.
Most entrepreneurs never think outside the box because they are trapped under their own self-created glass ceiling. The busy daily grind with stress pollutes their natural creativity. Take the time to re-evaluate your goals with some fresh lens.
Start by switching roles. This is a good way to learn and understand what is out there or in there. If you are the manager, become an employee. If you are the product manager, become the product. Change your perspective. This bit of role playing will allow you to find new innovative ways to look at the same problem, and find a solution that you never thought existed before.
Stuck with a creative block? Try beginning your day with Starbucks in one hand and a pen in the other. Build a daily routine brainstorming new ideas first thing each morning to get your creative mojo going. Before the hectic day starts is when you are most creative and your mind is less cluttered and strained.
Swim in the blue ocean.
In the groundbreaking book, “Blue Ocean Strategy”, authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne say that a major focus should be on creating competitor-free market space. Unlike “red oceans,” which are well-explored and crowded, “blue oceans” represent “opportunity for highly profitable growth.”
For example, take Cirque du Soleil. They took an old circus model, which catered toward middle-class families, and created a phenomena focused entirely on the upper-class, Broadway audience. Cirque du Soleil eliminated the cotton candy and expensive, circus animals. Instead, they rented high-class venues and crafted a themed storyline underlining their astounding acrobats and performers. They were able to reconstruct the market boundaries for an aged circus industry and have sense entertained over 70 million people.
Start looking across time, alternative industries, or complementary products or services. Your goal is to find the customer values of today, then re-evaluate traditional, outdated models and their old values. Are you after a market that is small enough so that larger competitors are not already going after it, and big enough so that if you’re successful, you can reach critical mass and profitability with it? Once you’re on to something, you can start paddling in the open waters.
Think big. Start small.
If you are going to change the world, you cannot do it with boring products or services. In the “Art of the Start”, Guy Kawasaki suggest “your goal is to catalyze passion…the only result that should offend (and scare) you is lack of interest.” He also recommends you not doing it alone. Most successful companies are started and become successful with at least two “soulmates.”
Your positioning and messaging should be simple, elegant and deep. It must be easy enough that your grandma would understand, and intuitive enough for a fifth grader to figure out. If your business model cannot be described in less than ten words, start over until you can.
Busyness does not create a business. Don’t spend all your time trying to find the perfect business model and the perfect big idea. Marketing guru, Seth Godin, speaks of it in his book, “The Big Moo: Stop trying to be perfect, and start being remarkable.” Your goal isn’t for perfection initially. It just needs to be attractive to a large group of people.
Most businessmen would suggest that you must understand your market very well, understand your product very well, and then go as fast as you can. Make as many mistakes early on and react quickly. This will be your best way to be able to compete with the business giants.
The revolution of forward-thinking innovators has just started. The race to build creative, innovative companies will be decided who will choose to start and who will finish strong. Perhaps one day after all, more people will be leaving a legacy.
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