Fact is innovation, or the investigation and implementation of fresh ideas, is integral to the success of any business large or small. Innovation drives the marketplace. Consumers demand innovative technology, the newest gadgets, latest fashions, and the best service and value their money can buy. It is not enough to follow market trends. Businesses must anticipate a need and fill that need before the consumer is ever even aware that they desire or need the proposed product or service.
In 1912, Walter H. Deubner, a small business grocer in St. Paul, Minnesota was seeking a way to increase his small business. Mr. Deubner noted that his customer’s purchases were limited by what they could easily carry. Mr. Deubner designed a way for shoppers to purchase more items at one time. It took him 4 years to create a solution: a prefabricated paper bag that was easy to use and strong enough to carry up to 75 pounds of groceries. Named after the inventor, the “Deubner Shopping Bag” originally sold for 5 cents. In less than 3 years, the innovative company was selling more than a million shopping bags a year.
Innovation comes in many forms. It often includes the investigation of an idea to create a new business venture or increase the profitably of a current business. Successful entrepreneurs embrace change, adapting their operations, products or services in eager anticipation of customer demand.
Seeking to remain competitive in an ever-changing economy while increasing the net worth of their business, entrepreneurs and business executives must recognize a novel idea and act. Failing to recognize an innovative opportunity or idea can be disastrous.
Wikipedia describes the process; “Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a new idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself.”
The process of innovation is a methodology taught in business universities, seminars and private mentoring. Although many companies give lip service to promoting innovative ideas, Innovation implementation fails to flourish unless vigorously encouraged by management. Many unexpressed creative ideas are great ideas, but fear of ridicule or absence of upper management support suppresses brilliant thought. Common mistakes entrepreneurs make may include:
Lack of Courage
Successful new business ideas spring forth through trial and error. If you are afraid of failing, you will never succeed. The entrepreneurial spirit thrives by turning mistakes into miracles. Noted author, psychologist, and life coach Jane Adams said it well when she penned, “What after all has maintained the human race on this old globe, despite all the calamities of nature and the tragic failings of mankind, if not the faith in new possibilities and the courage to advocate them?”
The old-aged adage “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” always applies. If your business idea doesn’t work the first time, be aware that it may work later. It always pays to be persistent. Return to the problem and correct the defects or change undesirable product or service features. Almost everyone knows the story behind Post-It Notes. The company was attempting to manufacture a super strong glue. The formula failed, however the failed product was converted to a successful adhesive to attach notes, hailing the phenomenal success of Post-It Notes.
Failing To Ask Questions
Great innovations come from challenging the norm. In his best selling book “Beyond The Obvious”, business innovation expert and writer Phil McKinney states, “As adults, we use our education and experiences to solve the problems we face rather than relying on asking questions. After all, you can’t change your core beliefs about your organization or industry unless you change something in your perspective about your business, your industry, your customers, or yourself. Think of it this way: If you want to start generating new output, you first need new input. And the only way to get new input is to either find new sources of information and inspiration or find new ways of looking at the same existing information you’ve been looking at for years.”
Assumptions of what works, prevents many businesses from ever generating new ideas. They inhibit growth by following the old adage, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”
If business owners ask targeted questions and listen carefully, employees, customers, suppliers, service people and competitors can provide insight and a wealth of inspiration. Entrepreneurs need then evaluate ideas in terms of the current government and local rules and regulations, the state of the economy, political environments, customer demographics, and new niche market trends.
All employees of a business should be taught to be aware and share observations of changes in consumer mindset, advancing technology, purchasing patterns and market trends.
Lack of Commitment
Business owners often have, what could be a great idea, yet they set it aside to deal with the day-to-day grind of managing their business. Business owners may believe that coming up with a new idea to improve their business is the hard part. Wrong! That is just the first part. Any idea is only as good as the commitment to follow through and put the idea into action. The difference between your original idea and the innovative change you implement in your business may be a dramatic one. Social media entrepreneur and innovation author and speaker, Sanjay Daial notes, “An idea is only an idea until you convert it into something meaningful. That’s when innovation starts.”
The majority of executives and business owners become satisfied with the status quo. They are making a handsome salary, and the business is surviving; why worry or risk profits trying to “reinvent the wheel”?
Complacency is a symptom of apathy and a sure route to failure: past experience can be an erroneous guidebook to the future. Become proactive and put your business on the path to success. When starting on a new innovative process, encourage participation by all employees and make sure that everyone clearly understands their role in implementing the new innovation, modality, service or product.
Steve Ray, corporate speaker and trainer, writing in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, October 14, 2011 stated, “More than the first two sins of business, ego and fear, we make excuses for complacency. Complacency always leads to blaming the economy, the staff, the management, the ownership, and the government. If you have spent the past few years blaming the economy, why are other companies within your industry growing and making profits?”
Stephen Denning, author of The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling (Jossey-Bass, 2005) and former Program Director, Knowledge Management, at the World Bank, in an article published by Ask Magazine titled “Challenging Complacency” notes “Managers also need to wrestle with the data, continually reassessing its significance and reliability, focusing discussion on areas of doubt and uncertainty, and paying particular attention to anomalies and dissenting viewpoints. It is also important to learn systematically from mistakes. Without systematic tracking of risk-related decisions and their effectiveness and training to correct for known biases, learning is likely to be limited.”
Tej Kohli, an international businessman and philanthropist with a diverse portfolio of commercial and charitable operations in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and India believes, “business success derives from constant engagement with the latest developments and the ability to identify unfulfilled gaps in the market.” In 1998, Mr. Kohli established Grafix Softech, his first company, in India. When Mr. Kohli identified a gap in the market for B2C e-commerce payments support, he moved his company to Costa Rica. The company is still privately owned by Mr. Kohli and has a turnover of several hundred million dollars: a fine example of applied innovation and adaptation to trending market conditions.
Often businesses owners, when evaluating the potential of a new idea demand hard numbers. What is the size of the market, who will is going to purchase this service or product, how soon will I see a return on my investment?
When market research does not validate the endeavor, many business owners immediately reject the idea as unviable. Unfortunately, this kind of restrictive thinking negates many worthwhile creative ideas. Freek Vermeulen, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, London Business School advises, “For a truly innovative product, it is impossible to reliably produce any numbers. If a CEO insists on hard numbers before the project is even started, it will by sheer definition kill off any truly innovative ones, simply because you cannot compute the size of a market that does not exist yet.”
Failure to successfully launch a new service or product can result from poor planning, lack of understanding of market demands and lack of internal organizational support. Business owners need to remove any stigma of ridicule or fear of failure from the their employees minds. Innovation thrives in a business environment where creativity, research, experimentation and forward thinking are recognized and rewarded.
Manta Media, a leader in e-commerce marketing, advises, “Launching a new product or service? Start building an interest list before it is brought to market. Make these prospects part of the process by providing updates, sharing progress and soliciting feedback along the way. When you launch you’ll have a built-in market that is already invested in the product or service.”
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