Top 3 Innovation Tips for 2017

If you want your company to stay ahead of the innovation curve, you must develop innovative ideas on a continuous basis.  For technology companies, innovations are a critical part of creating successful new products that maintain a competitive edge.

If you don’t maintain a steady flow of innovative ideas, one of your competitors will develop the next “must have” product in your industry and steal your customers.  Don’t let this happen to your company in 2017.  Start taking action right now to develop an Innovation Strategy that produces a constant stream of new ideas that generate competitive new products and position your company as a market leader.

Here are 3 tips you can start using today to foster more innovative ideas in your organization.

1. Create An Innovation Group – Attempting to launch a company-wide innovation program often triggers a strong protest because it might cause disruptions to the operation of the business.  Employees are already overloaded, so a new innovation program is typically met with resistance.  But, I have successfully used Innovation Groups to launch (and expand) innovation programs in a variety of companies.  A small Innovation Group (6-8 employees) can generate a multitude of valuable ideas without upsetting the day-to-day operations of the business.

If you want more details on creating an Innovation Group in your company, download my free Innovation Strategy Checklist and QuickStart Guide, which discusses how to create your own innovation group as well as many other innovation tips.  Enter your email address in the form below to get your free copy of the Innovation Strategy Checklist.

2. Schedule “Innovation Breaks” – Encourage everyone in your organization to take regular innovation breaks.  Something as simple as a 10 minute break twice a week can generate some fantastic ideas that solve existing problems or provide seed ideas for competitive new products.  During these innovation breaks, people need to change their environment – they must get out of their usual workplace and find a different setting.

A change of scenery can eliminate or reduce many of the distractions to give your mind some “creative space.”  During my innovation breaks, I go for a walk outside – it’s a complete change of environment from my office.

Some people do their best creative thinking in quiet areas, while others find inspiration in noisy environments, like a coffee shop.  Encourage people to find their best environment for innovative thinking and visit that environment at least a couple times a week.

And, be sure you have a system in place to record and evaluate all of those great ideas being generated during the innovation breaks.

3. Develop A Well-Defined Innovation Strategy – “According to PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP), almost 80% of the world’s most innovative companies have a well-defined and thought-through innovation strategy.” (Fortune Magazine)

A well-designed Innovation Strategy ignites a creative fire within your organization that produces a constant stream of innovative ideas.  These ideas can generate new products that position your company as a market leader.  And, that market leadership position can attract top quality employees and help retain your existing employees.

If you don’t have an Innovation Strategy, or you want to expand your existing strategy, start today!  You can begin by implementing the first two tips mentioned above.  Then, continue to broaden your Innovation Strategy to include more activities and more people within your organization.  As you build your Innovation Strategy, you will develop an innovation culture that generates new ideas throughout the company.

If you want more tips for creating or expanding your Innovation Strategy, download my free Innovation Strategy Checklist and QuickStart Guide by entering your email address in the form on the right side of this page.

2017 can be a great year for your company.  Get started today by implementing just one or two innovation activities.  Select one of the tips above or one of the activities described in the Innovation Strategy Checklist.

Top 4 Innovation Challenges Facing Companies In 2017

Business innovation in 2017I work with many companies in the technology industry and recently conducted an informal survey. The survey asked people working for these companies to identify the biggest challenge regarding innovation in their organization.

Understanding the top challenges facing my clients helps me provide better services to those companies and help them stay ahead of the innovation curve. I’m sharing a summary of the survey results with the readers of this blog so you can understand the common challenges faced by many companies.

Since we are approaching the end of the year, it’s a perfect time for you to look ahead and make plans for 2017. Consider these survey results when planning your 2017 business activities.

Based on my survey, the top four Innovation Challenges facing companies today are:

  1. Fostering new innovations
  2. Protecting innovative ideas
  3. Launching competitive new products
  4. Attracting top quality employees

I see companies struggling with these challenges every day – companies of all sizes and in varying industries (not just technology companies). Fostering and protecting innovations are important activities for every business. And, a thorough innovation strategy can produce valuable new products and attract people who want to work for an innovative organization.

I will be discussing the survey results with my own clients as I help them develop custom Innovation Plans for 2017 and beyond.

It seems that technology is moving at an ever-increasing pace, which makes it difficult for companies to keep up. Fast-growing trends such as “sharing economy” business models, the Internet of Things (IoT), and wearable technology have an impact on every business. If you want to stay at the forefront of your marketplace, and profit from these trends, you must have a plan. Innovation cycles are happening faster, which favors organizations with a well-designed and well-executed innovation plan. Start creating your company’s own innovation plan today.

If you would like to discuss ways that I can help you develop your own unique innovation plan, please contact me to schedule an Innovation Strategy Session.

A Unique Innovation Plan is Critical to your Company’s Success

Edited Innovation Plan imageYour innovation plan is the first step to igniting a creative fire within your organization that produces innovative ideas which are vital to your success.  In a recent blog post (A Proven System for Successful Innovation), I summarized the eight steps in my Innovation Success Blueprint system.  The first step is to create a unique innovation plan for your company.

A recent Fortune Magazine article states, “According to PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP), almost 80% of the world’s most innovative companies have a well-defined and thought-through innovation strategy.”

You can start developing your unique innovation plan by starting with a specific goal for innovation in your business.  Example goals include:

  1. Identify new products or product features to maintain business growth and stay on the leading edge of your industry.
  2. Develop new products or services that allow your company to enter a new market segment.
  3. In preparation for an upcoming round of financing, create innovative ideas and protect those ideas to exhibit a strong intellectual property portfolio to potential investors.

Once you have set an innovation goal and begin developing an innovation plan to achieve the goal, it is important to get the company leaders “on board.”  I have worked with many companies that struggled to develop a strong innovation culture when the company leadership did not support the innovation plan.  Even if just one or two company leaders are disparaging the innovation activities, that’s enough to sabotage the entire plan.  So, be certain that innovation is a priority to the leaders of the organization.

As you develop the innovation plan, be sure it aligns with the company vision and company goals.  This is the real magic in creating an Innovation Plan – when it supports the vision and goals of the organization, it fits naturally into the daily activities of the business.

After the innovation plan is prepared and it has the support of company leaders, then it’s time to launch the innovation plan.  As an Innovation Strategist, I generally recommend starting with one or two small innovation teams.  These teams work on solving specific problems or addressing gaps in the market.  Additionally, the initial teams help “test” the innovation plan and refine it to match the company’s business culture.  These small innovation teams can generate many valuable innovations without disrupting the day-to-day business activities that you might experience with a company-wide launch of the innovation plan.

I recommend creating innovation teams with six or seven people from different parts of company.  By selecting team members from multiple departments or groups, you create a diverse group of people with different perspectives on the business and different job functions.  This typically results in the identification of a broader range of innovative ideas.  As the initial innovation teams begin creating valuable ideas, you can expand the company’s innovation activities by adding more teams and developing company-wide innovation events.

By starting with a strong innovation plan that aligns with your company vision and goals, you have the foundation for creating a steady flow of innovative ideas that can increase revenue and create a competitive edge.

If you need assistance creating your own unique innovation plan, please contact me to see how I can help.


A Proven System for Successful Innovation

Image for blog post - jpegFor the past 25 years, I have been fortunate to work with more than 1000 innovators and business leaders at a variety of technology companies.

A common question I ask innovators is “How did you come up with this idea?”  The answers to those questions have provided a deep insight into the way in which innovative ideas are developed.

I have recently assembled the many pieces of “innovation knowledge” I have collected over the past 25 years into a system that allows companies to identify, develop and protect innovative ideas.  I call the system “Innovation Success Blueprint” and provide a brief summary of the system below.  Organizations that use this system can increase revenue, create a competitive edge in their market and develop an innovation culture that produces a steady flow of new ideas.

I’ve worked with many companies that execute a few of the eight parts of the system.  But, to get valuable results from your unique innovation plan, you must execute all eight activities to generate an “end-to-end” innovation system.  Companies that focus on all eight activities see powerful results and develop an innovation culture that produces a flood of innovative ideas.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting eight additional articles with details about implementing each of the eight parts of the system.

Here’s a brief summary of the Innovation Success Blueprint:

  1. Create a Unique Innovation Plan for Your Company – Ignite a creative fire within your organization to produce innovative ideas that are vital to your success.  This activity includes determining goals for your innovation plan, getting company leaders “on board” with the innovation plan and start developing innovation teams.
  2. Discover Innovation Opportunities – Learn to identify “innovation seeds” that grow into valuable business assets.  These innovation seeds are the starting point for brainstorming and ideation sessions.  You can find these seeds in customer feedback, market commentator articles and industry trends.  As you develop an innovation culture within your company, employees will begin to automatically identify innovation seeds on a regular basis.
  3. Consistently Generate a Flood of Innovative Solutions – When you begin discovering innovation seeds, your team begins developing innovative solutions that may include new products or enhancements to existing products.  These innovative solutions distinguish your company’s products in the marketplace giving you a competitive edge.
  4. Capture and Track Every Innovative Idea – Capture every idea so nothing slips through the cracks.  You need a simple system for employees to submit ideas – something they can do quickly when they have a “flash of brilliance.”  If people cannot easily submit ideas, they may wait until a later time and possibly lose the idea.
  5. Evaluate and Implement Key Innovations – Prioritize and implement the best innovative ideas to increase revenue.  Some ideas are not commercially feasible, or should be deferred to a later time.  It is important to consider multiple factors when evaluating innovative ideas.  And, your innovation review group needs to have a diverse membership to fully evaluate the innovative ideas.
  6. Protect Innovative Ideas – Secure intellectual property protection for key innovations to prevent others from copying your unique product features.  You should evaluate key innovations to determine which forms of intellectual property are appropriate for the ideas.  And, be sure your company agreements have the proper intellectual property clauses.
  7. Systematize the Innovation Process – Make innovative thinking a daily habit throughout your organization.  Consider adding innovation-related tasks to checklists and process lists so the topic of innovation becomes an integral part of all business activities.  Make innovation part of the company goals and individual goals to emphasize the importance of innovative thinking.
  8. Create an Innovation Culture – Build team engagement while developing profitable ideas.  An effective innovation plan creates an innovation culture throughout the organization.  Innovative ideas come from all parts of the company, not just the research and development group.  When you celebrate and reward innovative thinking, employees are encouraged to make innovation a daily habit.

By following the Innovation Success Blueprint system, your company can develop market-leading innovations that provide a strong competitive advantage.  If you want to talk with me about developing a Unique Innovation Plan for your business, click here to contact me and we can schedule a conference call.

5 Critical Events that Require Innovation Analysis

A successful Innovation Action Plan must include a system for identifying key innovation-related events and evaluating innovations prior to those events.  In some situations, you can lose the opportunity to protect your innovative ideas by making a public disclosure of the idea.  Here are five types of events that should trigger an innovation analysis in your organization.  Prior to each of these events, check to see if you are going to disclose key ideas that are not yet protected.

  1. Trade Show Participation – Will you be demonstrating or discussing innovations (including Intellectual Property) that is not protected?  If so, consider taking steps to protect those innovations prior to the trade show.
  2. Article (or White Paper) Publication – Check for any innovative ideas that are announced publicly in any articles or documents.
  3. New Product or Service Announcements – Any type of public announcement, such as press releases and broadcast interviews, should be evaluated for innovative ideas that have not yet been protected.
  4. Advertising Campaigns – Do any of your advertisements disclose company innovations?
  5. Sales Presentations – Will the sales presentation discuss innovative ideas contained in your products or services?
In my work as an Intellectual Property attorney I have seen many companies accidentally “give away” innovative ideas because they publicly disclosed the ideas before they were properly protected.  You can avoid this problem by identifying innovative ideas that will be disclosed during any of these five events.  Then, decide whether any steps are needed to protect those ideas prior to public disclosure.
If you have any questions about protecting innovative ideas in your own business, please click here to contact me.

Launching Your Innovation Action Plan

In this video I discuss three important steps you must take when launching an innovation action plan.  These steps will start a strong innovation program in your business that can increase revenue and provide a competitive edge in your market.

Watch this 5 minute video to start igniting a creative fire within your company.

Innovate by Streamlining Business Procedures

Line design. Project processMany businesses focus their innovative activities on product innovation, which can produce valuable company assets.  In addition to developing new products and new product features, businesses should look for ways to streamline business operations by innovating business processes.

Here is an approach to business process innovation:

1. Big Question:  Is the process necessary? The first question to ask when evaluating a business process is whether the process is necessary.  What is the purpose or end result of the process?  Is it still needed – does it provide value to the business?  You would be surprised how often I see clients with internal procedures that are followed because “that’s the way we’ve always done things” or “that’s what the ‘policies and procedures manual’ says”.  Before you attempt to improve an existing process, make sure it needs to be performed.  If not, don’t spend time “optimizing” the process, just eliminate it.

2. Identify the desired result of the process. Ask questions to determine the goal of the process.  Why was the procedure originally developed and

Cultivating Innovation Is a Direct Path to Profit

Rear view of young professional who is drawing a tree with light bulbs on the concrete wall. Light bulbs as a concept of new business ideas.(Note: This article was originally published by Entrepreneur Media, Inc. at Copyright 2015 by Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Do you have people in your organization who say they aren’t creative? Maybe you’re even one of those people.

But don’t buy into this idea, because everyone is capable of developing innovative ideas, even those who say they are not “creative.” In my work with clients, I am frequently asked how to generate innovative ideas. And what I reply is that to identify seeds of innovation you can cultivate, you should examine the problems to be solved, and the unmet needs in your company or industry.

Those seeds of innovation provide a powerful starting point for developing the valuable innovations that will increase your revenue and market share. Once you know how to recognize them, you can discover these innovation seeds in every part of your organization.

1. Your sales department

Your sales team members should be able to identify seeds of innovation during their daily interactions with customers and potential customers. The salespeople can identify missing product features that customers request and that may already be provided by a competitor.

Direct customer interaction by members of the sales team provides valuable feedback regarding desired features, favorite product attributes and other issues. This information can help your company develop innovative new features that distinguish your products in the marketplace.

An observant sales group also identifies how customers use products. I have worked with many clients who learned about customer actions from interactions between the salespeople and customers. In many instances, the customer actions showed inefficiencies in the product.

These inefficiencies then became “innovation seeds” which, during brainstorming sessions, grew into product revisions that made the product more user-friendly and increased the product’s value to potential customers.

2. Your customer service

Your customer service department is also capable of discovering a variety of problems through customer complaints and other customer feedback. Problems reported by one customer are likely to be experienced by many customers.

Solving these problems can improve

Innovation In the Pizza Business

A couple years ago, my family and I were vacationing in northern Michigan.  After spending a morning at a beach along Lake Huron, we decided to try a local pizza restaurant for lunch.  The restaurant was a typical pizza place offering both carry-out pizza and dining in their restaurant.  We found a table and ordered our lunch.  At that time, our two young daughters were accustomed to getting some crayons and a coloring sheet at restaurants to keep them busy.

After ordering, we asked the waitress if she had any crayons and paper for our kids to color while waiting for our pizza.  She told us that she did not have crayons, but would bring us something else for the kids to play with.  There were no other kids in the restaurant, so we didn’t know what kind of “toy” she might bring.  The toy was uncooked pizza dough.  Each of our daughters got a small plate with some pizza dough and flour (to keep the pizza dough from sticking to the plate) to play with.

Our kids loved playing with the pizza dough and made all kinds of things: a snowman, a leaf, a smiley face, rings for their fingers, and more.  For several days

How to Build Innovation Into Your Business Without Creating Chaos

(Note: This article was originally published by Entrepreneur Media, Inc. at Copyright 2015 by Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Business leaders know that innovation is critical to the growth and success of a company. But implementing a company-wide system for even identifying innovative ideas often triggers a strong protest against any initiative that might cause disruptions to the operation of the business.

Employees are already overloaded, so it’s only natural that adding innovation activities, and the uncertainty that comes with innovation, is likely to be met with resistance. You can overcome this resistance by launching an innovation team rather than rolling out a company-wide innovation program. As an Innovation Strategist, I have found that it’s rarely, if ever, necessary or advantageous to involve all of your organization in the innovation efforts. Properly configured and supported, small innovation teams can generate a multitude of valuable ideas without upsetting the day-to-day operations of the business.

1. Identify innovation team members

Select a group of six to eight people who have shown an interest in innovation for your first team. Choose people who enjoy creative activities, who are strong leaders likely to be interested in piloting the new innovation team. Some companies select people from the same department or group within an organization, such as the design or development group. However, a diverse team with members from different parts of the business will be more successful in big picture innovation.

For example, the innovation team may contain representatives from