Innovation is at the heart of every successful business. Few businesses have remained competitive just by selling the same old product for many years.
Staying ahead of the game often means developing new products, abandoning some that do not work, and establishing new ways of doing business. But, constantly developing new viable ideas that will add an element of versatility to your business is the secret to staying profitable in a highly competitive business landscape.
Here are feasible steps to help you create and implement a spirit of idea generation and innovation in your business:
Yes, you are the owner of your business and you should be in charge. However, it is important as a leader and entrepreneur to open up to other sources of information and ideas other than your own. There are only so many ideas that you can come up with.
If you have a team, encourage them to generate and share their ideas and find ways to implement the most viable of these thoughts.
Some of the best performing companies today have nurtured a workplace that encourages idea generation. For example, Google has a team that specifically deals with generating innovative concepts; it is no wonder that the company is firmly ahead of its competitors.
You do not need a whole team of employees who do nothing but crank out ideas. A culture of idea generation can be as simple as having an ideas board in your office and encouraging those you work with to draft their ideas any time they encounter the proverbial ‘light bulb’ moment.
It is also important to hold regular brainstorming sessions with your team or advisors to discuss promising ideas that may push your business forward. The truth is any entrepreneur worth his salt should be discussing new ideas several times a month. Neglecting this practice to once a year may cause your business to stagnate and lose its competitive edge altogether.
In an age of social media, engaging with customers directly has never been easier. This direct engagement coupled with an increasingly discerning online consumer necessitates the need for entrepreneurs to listen to their customers.
In the past, brands had very little interactions with their customers. Those that were able to deliberately track their customers’ needs began developing new, innovative products to meet these needs. A great example is Starbucks, which exhibits such invention when it comes to their range of coffees. Many of their coffees come from ideas touted by their loyal customers.
Entrepreneurs no longer need large budgets to conduct customer surveys; social media and DIY survey software make it so much easier to understand customers’ needs.
There is no reason why you should not be creating products that are already in demand and that have long-term market potential.
If you are a small business, even better as you can respond quickly to the needs of the market. Ask a few questions on social media as to what people are interested in and start giving them what they want!
Many times, ideas come unexpectedly and intuitively. Even then, some of the best ideas especially those that help to push an existing business forward come from deliberate knowledge gathering.
Think about the last time you attended an industry conference or seminar. The people you met and the content you received must have triggered an infinite well of ideas that seemed suitable for your business. Think about what would happen to your business were you to implement the most viable of those ideas.
The journey of entrepreneurship is not just about building and selling things. It is also a lifelong learning journey. Being perceptive to what is happening in and outside of your industry is particularly useful in helping you recognize gaps that need to be filled.
Reading books, surfing the web, attending those seminars, talking with others and really listening are all indispensible tools in the entrepreneurs’ idea-generation arsenal.
The most successful entrepreneurs are not just those who are able to infinitely generate ideas. What is even more important is an ability to discriminate between an idea that is worth pursuing and one that is simply not viable in improving your business bottom line.
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