Innovation is defined as the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. In order to be considered an innovation, an idea must satisfy a specific need and be replicable at an economical cost. It is in important to remember that it’s not about the idea, but what you do with it! The following are five important things to consider when innovating an idea or product:
Innovation begins with an idea and an idea is created through observation. A good place to start is to find an idea that fulfils a problem or meets a specific need by observing your surroundings. When finding your initial idea it is important to think big and start small. Your idea must have a clear sense of direction. A useful idea generating technique is SCAMPER:
- Substitute something
- Combine it with something else
- Adapt something to it
- Modify or magnify it
- Put it to some other use
- Eliminate something
- Reverse or rearrange it
Naturally, most inventions come from necessity and others from creative spark. Look for ideas everywhere and never discount the crazy ideas. Surround yourself with inspiration and fuel up on creativity. It has been said that expertise is the enemy of innovation so never think that you know it all! Try learn about anything and everything and use this when coming up with your idea. Strive for continual innovation and not instant perfection.
Open communication is an important component of innovation. It is important to research your idea, spark with imagination and fuel with data .Others should be considered when coming up with an idea and you shouldn’t be afraid to share your ideas and get feedback. Talk to your customers and use their suggestions and even complaints. Get ideas from the public through social media and see what the latest trends are for inspiration. Another option to consider is to hold an innovation competition where contestants pitch their innovative ideas to you.
Once you have formulated your ideas it is important to nurture them. At this point you need to have determination to push through failure as it is bound to happen. Not all of your ideas are going to be successful .Value the lessons taken from failure as much as your successes, and apply those lessons toward each new attempt. Discomfort and fear go hand in hand with innovation and it is important to embrace it. Always stay motivated in order to move forward. Passion and perseverance is key.
It is important not to risk everything on your first idea. Adjustments will have to be made along the way. In some cases if you do not have all the required resources it may be a good idea to consider a collaboration. By collaborating with another businesses or institutes, resources and knowledge become shared allowing you go to places you previously couldn’t go. It is recommended to choose a partner with a similar philosophy but different skills.
Nurturing your idea also involves testing and retesting the market. Many people skip out on this step as they believe it to be too expensive or too time consuming. That being said it will be a lot less time and money consuming than a failed business. Testing the market does not have to be expensive and one of the best ways to do it is by talking to people and establishing your target market.
The final stage of incubation is putting a plan into place and implementing it. As you make your plan, you may find yourself asking questions you hadn’t thought of before. The plan should set out frameworks, identify benchmarks and define your overall goals.
Your competition is a useful resource. You can learn from their mistakes, model what works for them and they can reveal opportunities in the marketplace. Competition automatically pushes you out of your comfort zone because of the desire and need to be better. You may even generate ideas thanks to your competition by improving products or services that they already offer.
Whenever a successful service or product is produced copies naturally emerge. Copying others is a reality of doing business. Take for example a fruit market. Sellers will switch from selling potatoes to selling bananas once they notice that their neighbours are making more profits from bananas.
Competition also links back to the idea of collaborations. Your competition may have skills and resources that you do not have but may need and vice versa. By collaborating you can work together on a common issue.
A patent is a government authority or licence conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention. Patents are there to protect inventions and innovations.
A patent search is the first step in the process of a patent application. The patent process is expensive so it is important to first determine the likelihood of the application being granted. A patent search can also be used to determine if it is worth moving forward with the patent application in terms of time and money. Once you have an idea it is important to investigate any patents that may be associated with it through a patent search.
A general rule when applying for a patent is “first to file means file first”. Although you may have to wait to file a patent for a number of reasons such as lack of financial, this can create risk. You should not try patent your innovation if your innovation definition is very broad. The broader you define your invention the more difficult (or impossible) it will be to obtain a patent. Hence you should not be seeking a patent if you do not want to be specific about defining your innovation.
Common pitfalls of innovation
As with anything in life there are always pitfalls, below are just a few of the pitfalls that you should try avoid when trying to innovate an idea:
- Underestimating what it takes in terms of time and money
- Lack of Resources
- Weak Innovation Processes
- Prioritising short-term results
- Lack of Balance
- Insufficient Insights
- Failing to fully evaluate ideas before making decisions
- Loss of interest
- Only valuing certain opinions
- Not having a process to track and develop innovative ideas
One should try to avoid these pitfalls through adequate planning, correct evaluation and hard work. It is also important to remain open minded and remain enthusiastic about your idea.
In conclusion, it is in important to remember that it’s not about the idea, but what you do with it. An idea that is nurtured and implemented properly can be a huge success. Innovating an idea does not happen overnight and requires the appropriate planning, time and resources. One must remember to keep an open mind and embrace failure. As the famous Steve Jobs once said “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”