Updated: September 14, 2010
This is already the second part of the article, read the first installment here: Innovation Management Part 1.
In the previous post, I have briefly explained what innovation is and how it can help a business break into a competitive market.
Regardless if you’re a startup or an established company, one needs to always be innovative to ensure continued growth for your business.
Last time, it was enumerated that being innovative means providing a better solution to an existing problem or integrating the value of several products into one.
Moreover, it can also mean increasing the affordability of a product or simply improving the customer experience in your business.
For this second part, we shall go into more detail about innovation management – that is, answering some questions on how to come up and implement innovative ideas into your business.
Where or to whom should you get innovative ideas?
Running a business is all about providing value to your customers. This means that whatever new product or service you provide, it should naturally benefit them.
Thus, it follows that your most important source of innovative ideas will be your customers. Talk to them, get feedback, observe and research the needs of your target market.
Furthermore, your employees can also be a great source of innovative ideas. Your frontline staff (those who directly interact with your customers) will usually have invaluable insight about what your market needs.
But more than that, encouraging everyone in the business to brainstorm and come up with new ideas is also an effective way to discover profitable innovations the company can pursue.
Giving them such autonomy, mastery and purpose will motivate them to perform better and excel at their work.
How much time should you devote to innovation?
As much time as you can afford, no specific rule here really as long as you have one. It can be a once a week brainstorming with your staff, a monthly open discussion with your frontline, or perhaps a quarterly group discussion with select customers.
Did you know that in Google, their engineers have Innovation Time Off – a company policy that encourages everyone to spend twenty percent of their regular work time on projects that interest them.
Interestingly, some of Google’s most profitable and widely used services such as Gmail, Google News, Orkut, and AdSense all originated as an idea from these “free time” sessions by their engineers.
What if a company can’t afford to pursue an innovation?
Lack of manpower skills, production time or money – that can indeed be a problem. But any innovative idea can be researched, managed and turned into a business plan for future use.
Moreover, outsourcing the needed skills, production requirements, or applying for a business loan are also possible solutions. If an innovative idea has good income potential, then it may be worth the risk.
Can this risk be minimized?
Yes, doing market research is always the best way to minimize your risks. You can introduce your new product or implement your innovation on a smaller scale first, then slowly build up once you realize its potential.
How do you protect your innovations?
In business, you can never really stop your competitors from adapting your innovations. Your once innovative products and services can be copied by others and soon, it will be available everywhere.
Yes, you can patent your innovations, if it is possible. But in most cases, you cannot and that’s why it’s important to learn that your business should never stop innovating.
Like marketing, innovation management is an essential business activity – you don’t stop even if you reach top.
Innovations make businesses grow, it’s what brings them to their future.
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