(Note: This article was originally published by Entrepreneur Media, Inc. at http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/242737 Copyright 2015 by Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.)
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, I have observed several common pitfalls that prevent entrepreneurs from identifying creative ideas that can grow their business.
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 new features. Once you and your team understand the value of creative ideas, innovation will become a daily habit in your business.
Businesses of all sizes can benefit from identifying creative ideas. 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.
Many people have the mistaken belief that innovation is just for technology-based companies. However, 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.
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 company founders. Although these people are important, this approach may fail to identify valuable ideas. When working with innovative clients, I have observed many creative ideas developed by people in all areas of the business. For example, salespeople and customer service agents have significant customer contact that provides valuable feedback about customer needs and concerns.
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. Involving your entire team in the creativity process builds a culture of innovation that produces a steady flow of ideas throughout the business.
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. Small changes that solve real problems can produce significant value for your business. 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.
Identifying new ideas is an important activity. But, you must evaluate the ideas and take action to implement the best ideas to see growth in your business. 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.
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. Celebrate creative thinking and reward 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.
If you are struggling with any of these pitfalls, make a change today by getting rid of at least one of these bad habits.