By now you’re well aware that one of the greatest mandates for staying in business is innovation. You may have done it once by offering a unique service or product to an underserved market, but once isn’t enough in today’s entrepreneurial age. The notion of constant innovation needs to be a part of your company’s DNA. Darwin knew this about humankind—–it also applies to businesses. The companies that become complacent are the ones that eventually die. Take Blockbuster for example. They didn’t even see Netflix coming. Now Blockbuster has closed thousands of locations nationwide and probably are facing extinction.
Continuous innovation is the first step but the part that overwhelms many business owners is the how to keep the juices flowing. Everyone from your employees to your vendors can be a source of great innovation. But it's also urgent to create a culture that eats, sleeps and walks innovative thinking. Here are a few ideas to begin implementing constant innovation at your company:
Talk to the trade.
It’s amazing how few companies leverage their partners as sources of insight. Don’t ask them what new products you should make… ask them “what's not working?” in their current business climate. You’ll come up with an innovative solution when you look to your front line to understand specifically the problems that need solving.
Put skin in the game.
Tasking your team to create innovative ideas and empowering them to do so are two different things. Create a program where team members can develop new ideas and pitch them to you. Ideas that fulfill pre-determined success criteria are eligible for funding by you or the team member to bring to life. You’ll be amazed at the results a little empowerment can produce. Oh….and then reward them publicly.
Deliberately look to other categories for ideas to shift the context of your business. Most brands will instinctively consider their competitive set the other brands with which they literally compete for sales. But imagining how your brand could compete with completely new categories and you can spark innovation genius. Make natural foods? Imagine what it would take for your products to do the job of a car, for example: to help people move from one place to another – you may come up with a killer new energy product. Make soap? What would it take for your products to become jewelry? You might discover an opportunity for a premium line of decorative soaps sold via Restoration Hardware that make soap dishes a showplace. For all the desire to “get out of the box,” usually getting outside of your category is the true way to find new white space.
Put these in place and you’ll be amazed at not only the out-of-the-box ideas you and your team will generate, but also at the heightened engagement by your employees to participate in a chance to transform your business.
This guest post is courtesy of: Hunter Thurman is the founder of Thriveplan, the innovation lab that creates new product success for consumer brands. The firm taps the subconscious voice of the consumer, in part, through its Ancient Dynamics™ modeling, which uses established evolutionary psychology principles to decode innate human perception and behavior.