21 Day Innovation Challenge

Welcome to the 21 Day Innovation Challenge.  Each day I will provide one small tip or action step you can take to help you start incorporating innovation into your business.  As we go on this 21 day journey, you will learn a system for developing innovative ideas, protecting those ideas, and using the innovations to grow your business.  If you follow the daily activities, you will be surprised at the ideas you discover over the next 21 days and maybe even realize that you are more creative than you thought!

These activities are perfect for solo entrepreneurs, contractors, and employees.  Everyone can benefit from a boost in creativity!

This blog post will be updated each day during the 21 Day Innovation Challenge.  If you miss a day, you can always catch up the next day.

You can access this article at the same link every day:  http://21DayInnovationChallenge.com

There’s no cost to participate in the challenge.  I encourage you to invite your friends and co-workers.

Please leave comments below to share your insights and experiences.  Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments – I will personally answer all questions.

OK, let’s get started….

Day 1

For Day 1, I have two simple activities for you.  These activities are important to set the foundation for the following 20 days.  Here are your Day 1 activities:

  1. Clear out any negative thoughts about whether you are creative. I’ve worked with thousands of people with all types of backgrounds, education, and experience.  The one consistent thing among all these people:  Every person has the ability to develop unique and creative ideas!  Go into this challenge with an open mind about innovation and your own creativity.  I will show you a system for activating your creative energy and developing innovative ideas.  Trust me!
  2. Get ready to record all of your brilliant ideas. Many of your creative ideas will pop into your head when you least expect it.  Be ready to record those ideas immediately.  Here are my favorite tools for quickly capturing your “flashes of brilliance”:
    • Smartphone – Use the notes app, email the idea to yourself, leave yourself a voicemail message, or text the idea to yourself.
    • Paper and Pen – Yes, this is old fashioned, but it works! Keep a pad of paper and pen in your car, on your nightstand (for those middle-of-the-night ideas), or wherever you have your best ideas.  It only takes 15 seconds to jot down your idea.
    • Shower – If you’re like most people, you get lots of great ideas in the shower. But, your smartphone and paper/pen don’t work there.  One solution is a product called AquaNotes® – they’re like Post-it® brand notes, but you can write on them when they are wet.  They mount to the wall of your shower with suction cups.  It’s a great invention and “prevents your ideas from going down the drain!”

That’s all for Day 1.  Work on these two activities so you’re ready to keep making progress tomorrow.

Day 2

Welcome to Day 2!  Today I want to provide a couple definitions of innovation.  Two common definitions are:  “The introduction of something new” and “Modification of an existing product, service or process.”  Note than an innovation is not necessarily a revolutionary new product or service like a self-driving car or a surgical robot.  A valuable innovation can be a small improvement to an existing product or a modification of a business processes that improves the efficiency of your organization.

As I mentioned in Day 1, everyone has creative skills and is capable of generating innovative ideas.  In my experience with thousands of clients, I’ve seen brilliant ideas from people in every part of an organization.  In many cases, innovation starts with identifying problems or issues you want to solve.  For example, if you work for a company, the problem may be a customer service issue where customers don’t understand how to use a specific product feature.  If you are an online entrepreneur or a member of a small group of entrepreneurs, you may be experiencing issues with certain business processes, such as managing outsourced projects.  Any type of problem or issue can be a starting point for innovative activity.

Your one activity for today is to spend 5-10 minutes making a list of problems or issues that need to be solved in your business (whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or work for a company as an employee or contractor).  You may not be the person responsible for solving the problem.  But, for now, just record the problems or issues that you think of or that you observe as you go about your daily activities.

As you think about these “problems” or “issues,” I want you to start referring to them as “innovation opportunities.”  So, what used to generate negative thoughts (a problem) is now reframed as a positive thought:  it provides an opportunity to innovate and improve your business.  For now, spend some time recording these new innovation opportunities – we will come back to this list in a few days.

Day 3

Have you experienced any “idea pops” yet?  That situation where an idea just “pops” into your head and you have no idea where it came from.  I know this is only Day 3 of the Challenge and we haven’t even started talking about the idea generation process.  But, I’ve noticed that when people start writing down innovation opportunities (formerly known as “problems”), their subconscious mind starts working on those opportunities.  And, when you least expect it, a solution to the “problem” just pops into your mind.

If this has already happened for you, that’s fantastic!  You did record the idea, right?  If it hasn’t happened for you yet, be patient, it WILL happen.  I’ve worked with lots of people, and every one of them can tell me about fantastic ideas that just came to them “out of nowhere.”

Today’s activity is to continue looking for “opportunities to innovate” (formerly known as “problems”).  Some great places to find these opportunities:  talk to people who handle customer service issues, read what journalists say about your company and its products, ask for customer feedback, and talk to other people on your team (such as co-workers and contractors).

Add these new opportunities to your list.  And, keep building your habit of seeing opportunities instead of “problems” or “complaints.”  Try to identify at least five additional opportunities from the sources mentioned above.  We will use this list of opportunities in a few days.

Day 4

How’s your list of Opportunities to Innovate coming along?  Today I’m going to give you some Magic Words to listen for.  When you hear these Magic Words, pay attention because the person speaking (or writing) these words is giving you a gift – an opportunity to innovate.  Here are a few of these Magic Words:

“I wish there was a way to …”

“I’m frustrated with …”

“Why is it so difficult to …”

“Why doesn’t someone create a …”

“I wish someone would fix …”

When you hear any of these phrases, you’re being given a chance to innovate.  Add these ideas to your list!  Your activity for today is to start listening for these magic words (especially when they relate to your business), and add them to your list.

Tomorrow you will pick one of your “opportunities to innovate” and start developing innovative solutions.

Day 5

Over the past few days, you have been creating a list of innovation opportunities.  Today you are going to start developing innovative ideas that address one of your innovation opportunities.

Think of your innovation opportunities as “innovation seeds.”  These innovation seeds are the starting point to great ideas, but you need to nurture and cultivate those seeds.  To get started, pick one of your innovation opportunities – one that is of greatest interest to you or is an important issue in your business.  You can always switch to a different innovation opportunity later, but pick one to start with.

Your activity for today:  find a block of time (start with 5-10 minutes) to think about the opportunity you selected.  Preferably, your block of time is free of distractions – silence your phone, turn off email/social media notifications on your computer and, if necessary, close the door to keep people from disturbing you.  Focus on the opportunity and think of any way to solve the problem you are addressing.  Reflect on how you previously solved similar issues or think about how others in your organization have resolved different issues.  Record every idea you think of – don’t dismiss any ideas, just record them using pen/paper, note application, etc.  Don’t analyze or judge the ideas, just get them recorded.

When you’re done with your 5-10 minute session, and you go back to your regular activities, your subconscious mind will continue to create more ideas.  So, keep your pen/paper or other recording device handy to capture these additional ideas.  I’ve worked with many people who come up with their best ideas a day or two after the initial session.

That’s it for today.  Tomorrow I will show you a specific technique for finding additional ideas that can solve the innovation opportunity you’re working on.

Innovative Thinking – Do Light Bulbs Make A Difference?

Many factors can affect your ability to innovate and think creatively.  Location, noise/activity level, and time of day all have an influence on your innovative thinking.  An article in Fast Company suggests that the image of a conventional light bulb (an incandescent bulb) improves a viewer’s insight and creative thinking.  Click here to read the full article in Fast Company.

The light bulb is used regularly as an indicator of creative ideas and innovations.  However, this article (and the related study) suggests that surrounding yourself with innovative objects or symbols – such as the conventional light bulb – improves creativity.  This study compared the performance of participants who viewed a conventional light bulb as compared to those who viewed an overhead fluorescent light.

The results of the study are based on the presence of the light bulb, not the actual light emitted by the bulb.  The bulb itself can be disconnected from an electrical socket and still have a positive influence on a person’s thinking ability.  The “power” of the conventional light bulb appears to be its symbolic value as an indicator of innovation and creative thinking.

What other symbols come to mind when you think of Innovation?

Steve Sponseller is an Intellectual Property Attorney and Innovation Strategist. He has 25 years of experience helping more than 1000 inventors and business leaders identify, develop, and protect innovative ideas. Get a complimentary copy of his Innovation Strategy Checklist to start creating a steady stream of innovative ideas that give your company a competitive advantage.


3 Ways To Boost Your Creativity Today

Everyone knows that you need to apply creativity to your business to make it succeed. This creative effort has a clear end in mind – to develop innovative products or streamline your business processes to increase profits. But, what can you do when you are just not feeling creative? Here are three great ways to give your creativity an instant boost.

1. Take Pictures

A fantastic way to get your creativity flowing is to grab a camera or your smartphone and take some pictures. It’s an easy way to create something no matter where you are located. You can take pictures at home, at work, or anywhere.

To make it more fun and creatively stimulating, pick something as a theme. A good theme is to choose a color and look for things to snap that are that color. Another idea is to pick

Discovering Innovative Ideas

Do you ever struggle with a business problem that requires creativity? If you’re like many people, you sit at your desk and get to work on the problem. You may twirl pencils, crumple up pieces of paper, gaze out the window, and take occasional breaks to pace or get another cup of coffee. But, do you find that the ideas are not materializing?

Some creative people can generate ideas anytime anywhere. But most of us have certain activities that get our creative juices flowing. If you want to perform at your creative peak, you need to identify these activities and use them to your advantage.

Sleeping and Waking

For some reason, sleep seems to bring out the creative ideas in many people. Maybe it has something to do with

Boost Your Creativity with an Idea File

If you want to harness the power of your inner creativity to do great things in your business, start an idea file. An idea file is a list of ideas that you can draw on anytime you need one. Think of it as your “backburner.” One of my clients refers to it as an “Innovation Parking Lot” – a place where they collect innovative ideas for future inspiration.

Why You Should Keep an Idea File

The main reason it’s important to have an idea file is that it provides ideas when you need them, but there are other benefits as well. An idea file helps you organize your creative thoughts. With several ideas written down and ready to go, you can choose the idea you feel most inspired to run with at the moment.

An idea file also allows you to capture ideas whenever inspiration hits. You can jot down the idea no matter where you are

Where Does Creativity Come From?

For centuries, artists and poets have talked about “the muse.” The muse is the source of inspiration. It has often been seen as some kind of dark supernatural force, but actually it can be anyone around you or something as simple as a photograph or a walk in the park. If you can identify your muse and turn to it when you need inspiration, this will help you unlock your creative energy.

Who is Your Muse?

Take a minute to think about the people you know. Who makes you feel inspired? Is there someone you chat with over coffee and then you find yourself rushing home full of creative ideas? If there is, this person is your muse.

You don’t have to limit yourself to just one muse. Artist Pablo Picasso considered every woman he had a relationship with his muses. It may be that simply going out and socializing is a good way to get inspired. Your muse may be a stranger you have a conversation with at a bus stop or waiting in line at the grocery store.

Favorite Things

Your muse may not be a person at all. It could be

Creativity and Innovation are All About Taking Risks

One of the key traits of creative people is that they are risk takers. They are not afraid to put something new out into the world that might be laughed at. Creative people don’t mind being dismissed as crazy or unusual. These types of people often generate the most innovative ideas. If you want to be a more creative person, this is a personality trait that you need to foster in yourself, and it’s easy to do.

First, take a moment to consider that without risks there are no rewards. You may have a few failures but if you can keep your failures from discouraging you, the next attempt might be a huge success. If you have what you believe are good ideas, but you’re afraid to take the plunge and put them out into the world, here are some ideas for changing your mindset.

The Worst That Can Happen

What’s the worst that could happen when you present a new idea? You might face criticism or doubts, but that’s all. In fact, you might face

Innovation Tips to Grow Your Business

Successfully leveraging innovation can affect all areas of your business.  Learning and applying innovation skills can help you develop new products or services, solve problems, and improve the efficiency of your business operations.  Here are a few tips for using innovation to your advantage.

1. Distinguish your Business from Competitors.  Businesses (regardless of size) can distinguish themselves from others in the marketplace by identifying and developing creative ideas.  Rather than simply following “industry standards” and creating more of the same products, apply an Innovation Strategy to develop products that set your company apart from everyone else.  Look for ways to make your products faster, more efficient or more fun to use.  Set a goal to identify problems faced by your market and create solutions to those problems.  When you implement a solution to a problem faced by everyone in your market, you will stand out as a market leader.

2. Get Free Advertising.  When you distinguish yourself as an innovator (or innovative company), you attract media attention.  Think about all the free advertising today’s most innovative companies receive.  When you develop innovative products that solve industry problems or simply improve the lives of individuals, you will receive

Did You Set Your 2018 Innovation Goals Yet?

It’s time to set your Innovation Goals for 2018.

As you plan your business activities for the coming year, consider adding some innovation activities to your plan. Here are a few tips that can help your business discover innovative ideas and turn them into profit.

1. Schedule time for innovation activities. You can start by scheduling a 10-15 minute block of time for creative thinking or brainstorming. This can be done alone or with a group of people. During this time, turn off your phone, email notification, and other distractions. Dedicate this block of time to thinking about solutions to current problems or thinking about how to further improve your current products/services.

2. Find your innovation environment. Find the environment that stimulates your creativity. Some people find energy walking outside or going to a quiet place. Others are inspired in

Don’t Let a Corporate Bully Destroy Your Tech Company

Robert and I had been working on a new project for barely a month when I received a frantic phone call from him.

“We’ve been sued for patent infringement by Acme!”

Acme was a large corporation with very deep pockets.  This was Robert’s worst nightmare – a potentially deadly lawsuit right after starting his new job with the company.

Note:  Obviously the company names and product names have been changed to protect the actual parties involved in the litigation.

I started working with Robert’s company (Awesome Corporation) a month before that phone call.  Awesome was growing quickly and getting rave reviews of its new line of flux capacitors.  Many satisfied customers were enjoying excellent results using the capacitors.

Awesome had a great team of creative people who were

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