The Innovation Toolkit

Get Creative, Go With Your Gut & More

How to win government grants for innovation
Jeff Hoffman
The federal government's Small Business Innovation Research program alone gives out more than $1.5 billion in grants and contracts per year. But the grant process is competitive, and entrepreneurs often don't get far in it. Keep grant proposals small and specific, and demonstrate that you [not] only have an innovation, but that you have someone in your organization who understands how to bring an innovation to market. Bring in an outside professional who has experience [with] marketing ideas.
Jeff Hoffman is the president and CEO of Danya International Inc., an education company, and winner of 23 Small Business Innovation Research grants and contracts.

Small companies have

as many patents per employee as large companies.

Source: CHI Research Inc. for the SBA Office of Advocacy

How to overcome barriers to creativity
Michael Michalko
Require that everyone in your company bring a new idea as his or her ticket to a meeting. The meeting can't start until everybody has punched their tickets.
Michael Michalko is the author ofThinkertoys.

How to get an early start on entrepreneurship
Bonnie Drew
Children and teens are better at generating innovation than adults because they haven't failed many times in life and they don't put up barriers around themselves. If you have a kid who shows potential, you need to make entrepreneurship as much of a game for them as possible; it makes it easier for them to overcome obstacles they face. Then they see the obstacles as part of the fun, and they see there will be a way of getting past obstacles and reaching the finish line.
Bonnie Drew is the senior executive vice president of Young Biz Inc., a company that trains young entrepreneurs.

How to go with your gut
Billy Shire
In the toy and collectibles industry, you have to use bad taste. I go to gift shows, toy shows and flea markets and look for items that trigger my bad taste. They have to be well-done tasteless things-things Americans will love. In the 70s, I started buying old tiki bamboo furniture and tiki shirts from tag sales. It hit the right balance of kitsch-it conjured up images of 1950s American couples sipping mai tais in the backyard-and it was a huge seller in my store. Now, chains like Crate and Barrel sell Polynesian furniture, and Target sells tiki shirts.
Billy Shire owns Wacko toy store.

Innovation from small business is
as closely linked to scientific research than that of large businesses.

Source: CHI Research Inc. for the SBA Office of Advocacy

How to take an alternative innovation mainstream
Tom Mitchell
Astrology has a big marketing problem: People don't always take it seriously. We want to show astrology is a mainstream tool for understanding business. To do so, we show clients the science behind astrology to show that it's verifiable. We show how astrologers have created a database of information about people's behavior based on their birthdays and other factors. We stress how this database is no different than other databases and how it can be used by personnel managers; and we talk about how astrologers' research is as scientific and quantitative [as any other scientific discipline].
Tom Mitchell is the co-founder of Jupiter Returns, a company that promotes astrology as a practical tool for improving businesses.

How to sell a VC on your innovations
Andrew Zacharakis
To show VCs you can generate returns that make risks worthwhile, you must demonstrate you understand how costs stack up when your business expands. Entrepreneurs often come to a VC with a business plan that projects millions in revenues, but lists a future staff of only 15 people. Those who provide a reasonable plan that shows potential liabilities and that includes benchmarks against other companies, will be more likely to raise capital.
Andrew Zacharakis is an associate professor at Babson College and a venture capital specialist.

How to promote your innovations
Rob Levinson
Get invited to speak at as many conferences and academic events as possible. When you appear as a speaker, it gives you the aura of an expert and makes any ideas or innovations you talk about seem credible. A few weeks ago, I participated in a seminar in Boston. Afterward, four people in the audience approached me asking for my services. If I had cold-called them, they wouldn't have answered.
Rob Levinson is the founder of RL Strategies, a marketing and public relations consulting firm.

Joshua Kurlantzick is a writer in Washington, DC.

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This article was originally published in the May 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Innovation Toolkit.

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