Innovation is today’s buzzword. Almost everyone is to seek ways to innovate in their business, their goods and services and their delivery. After all-innovation fuels distinction, and distinction fuels market advantage. When you have cut as much as you can from the cost side of the equation-the only other option is to introduce. And that is what we all want to do.
Why? Because even as we think about innovation-that thought is bounded by our past beliefs-unless we shift. That’s especially true when we are experts in a specific arena. We make assumptions about the points of innovation-where we should innovate, what is innovative, even what keywords we should search on to find innovation ideas-based on our expertise, and our past.
How Can This Be?
We innovate in place around our Gravity. That very expertise that helped us grow now becomes the Gravity that keeps us circling.
Taking a step back….
The touchpad interface of the iPhone and iPad: Apple did not ask’ How can I make a better keyboard for my phone? ‘ Sure-they had experts in that. They asked a different question’ How do I change the way we interact with our devices? ‘
Innovation?? More Considerations
The hybrid car: These did not come along because some expert said’ Let’s build a more efficient gas engine. ‘ Someone asked’ What other fuel can I use for power?? ‘
Unless we throw out our knowns, step outside of the boxes we have drawn around ourselves and our businesses, reach out for radical new insights-we will not innovate. We’ll circle again and again, adding incremental value, playing the game of leapfrog with those around us. And that’s OK too. It’s just difficult to follow the market when we are making small jumps.
Perhaps you have seen this great quote from Peter Drucker. ‘ Because the purpose of business is to develop a customer, the business enterprise has two– and only two– basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique role of the business. ‘
You of course need marketing to show people that your product or service is available. Without good marketing no one cares enough to ever purchase your product or service. Once you are a good marketer you can apply this to any business. When I launched my first business, I thought I knew a bit about marketing. By that I mean, I knew how to say to potential customers,’ Here is my product and this is the price. ‘ And I knew how to prove that to a few people offline. What I was unaware of was how to make people want to view it and wish to buy it. Moreover, I was clueless on how to perform this online, besides making some easy Kijiji and Craigslist ads. Then I did something incredible. I started to educate myself in online marketing. I have a completely different approach to my businesses now. Your business, whether it be an offline or online business, needs internet exposure in the year 2013. You need to beat out your competition too, its not adequate to simply be there. This requires education. I cannot say enough about having compelling headlines and good copywriting, not to speak a simple, well designed website. You will not understand these things without some first hand experience so it is not always easy. Entrepreneurship is not meant to be simple, of course.
Innovation is a key to being able to actually sell your products. Innovation deals with creating products or services that are new, better and different, but more importantly solving problems for your prospects. An ‘innovation’ is useless if it does not help your prospects in any way. I thought I knew this before. However, I wasn’t implementing this fully in my businesses. The number one rule here is to stop thinking about ways to help your business grow, and instead think about how you can help your customers grow or solve their problems. Your business will grow even more as a consequence of this. Serve your customers needs and demonstrate that you care about them. Always be serving their needs instead of yours. Your marketing will be so much more simplified when you do this.
Go watch and talk to persons in industries that have anything to do with what you do. Forget looking at everyone who knows what you know-find someone who’s innovating in a whole different market, product, customer, or service base. One of the best ideas I ever had for my business came when I was helping a client in the networked marketing nutrition business. I’m not going to share that one-because I’m not quite ready to launch it. But ask yourself-what does consulting and coaching have to do with nutritional marketing? Pretty diverse-and that is exactly why I got the idea.
Write down the specific aspects about your business you ‘d like to innovate. Now-go see what totally different industries are doing around those specific aspects. For example-if you are in the cellular phone business and you are focused on better customer service approaches at your retail level-go to your favorite restaurant-that place where the service rocks-and watch them in action. Look for the concepts behind the actions-and then apply those concepts to your business.
A conception could be the seed out of which will establish something new that will make life easier or even more exciting. It could be the onset of a new and best way of conducting a particular action, the one that will get better, faster, or even more appropriate results. The person or perhaps the organization with this specific innovative concept is more prone to find success by introducing innovation in business procedures.
Recognize what you do not know. Your expertise may not be transferable. Expertise in one area doesn’t mean you can innovate in another area. For example, let us say you have always sold services and now you are adding some products to the mix. Go find product experts to help you innovate. Forget thinking you can figure it out because you are an expert in services and your market. Your expertise does not apply. So find somebody who can ask you the right questions to help you innovate in a new unknown way.
Watch your Customers. Someone told me this week that customers do not know the innovation they want. Maybe that’s true. But they’ll tell you the shift in perspective you need to commit your knowledge and skills necessary to find the innovation. If you are thinking from your customer’s viewpoint-you are already closer to innovation than you’re standing in your own status quo. Get out there and get into their place and perspectives.
Innovation only happens when we shift out of our knowns and into a new place-of thinking, seeing and believing.
That’s a really hard thing for experts to do-after all, that’s why you are an expert. Yet that’s exactly what leading innovators do. They throw their expertise to the wind, and watch the world through fresh eyes.
I’m reminded of Suzuki’s fabulous book-The Beginner’s Mind. The book was written to apply to meditation-but it was the perfect analogy for fueling innovation.