Many entrepreneurs fail to leverage innovative ideas in their business. They want to grow their business and offer products with a competitive edge but neglect techniques and systems that generate a flood of valuable ideas. As an innovation strategist, my job is to help clients avoid falling prey to one of these common mistakes.
1. Believing innovation is too costly.
Innovation does not need to be a complicated, time-consuming activity. Learning a system for identifying and developing innovative ideas takes a bit of time, but it can create huge returns in the form of new products or features. Once you and your team understand the process for creating a return on investment, generating creative ideas will become a daily habit in your business.
2. Waiting to get bigger.
Waiting until your business reaches a particular size is a common mistake. Small businesses can often innovate better and faster than larger companies. This speed and flexibility allows small businesses to get new products to market faster and position themselves as a market leader.
3. Thinking that innovation is not relevant to their industry.
Many people have the mistaken belief that innovation is just for technology-based companies. This is just not the case. Businesses in any industry can apply innovative ideas to grow their revenue and develop a strong position in their market. Recent business articles discuss innovation plans for companies in the food, banking, and clothing industries. Use this common pitfall to your advantage. Create your own innovation system to jump ahead of your competitors.
4. Failing to involve the entire team.
Every person in your organization has unique experiences and perspectives on different aspects of the business. However, many business leaders limit the company’s innovation activities to a few people, such as product developers or founders. Although these people are important, this approach may fail to identify valuable ideas.
People outside the product development area have an advantage when developing ideas, because they are not limited by “the way things have always been done.” Instead, they freely approach problems from different perspectives and do not limit their thinking to existing company products or systems.
5. No system for identifying innovative ideas.
Successful businesses have a system for identifying creative ideas. Since many innovations solve problems or fill market gaps, the innovation process starts by finding opportunities to develop creative solutions. Many new ideas are incremental changes, not revolutionary new products.
Identify problems, unmet needs and market gaps, then let your team create ideas that address those issues. Schedule these activities to maintain the continual creation of new ideas.
6. Not evaluating ideas thoroughly before making decisions.
Identifying new ideas is an important activity. But, you must evaluate the ideas and take action to implement the best ones that allow your business to grow. When evaluating ideas, get input from people in different parts of the business. I recommend an “innovation evaluation team” that includes input from sales, marketing, customer service, product development and manufacturing personnel. Remember to obtain input from consultants as well as employees. Each person has different expertise and offers a different business viewpoint. This diversity helps identify the most valuable ideas to pursue.
7. Failing to celebrate innovation.
Innovation does not have to be boring! If you have not worked with an innovative company, you may not understand that creativity can be fun, and that the more you celebrate creativity the more innovative your company will become. Reward creative thinking and celebrate those who submit great ideas that help the business grow. Schedule innovation contests, brainstorming sessions and other activities that encourage innovative thinking throughout your company.