Make More Happen

Stuck? 5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Gain a Fresh Perspective.

Innovation is important to entrepreneurs, whether they are starting a new venture or expanding an existing business, as a new or improved product can provide a competitive edge.

Innovations may include a completely new product or improving an existing one that provides a more valuable experience for the consumer. The new or improved product can provide a competitive edge that makes the business stand out from the crowd. Innovative ideas are valuable to entrepreneurs in all industries and for businesses of all sizes.

Yet many entrepreneurs, do not fully utilize innovation or understand how to ignite it, causing them to miss out on potential ideas that could have a significant impact on the success of their business.

Related: History's Inventive Minds Say You Don't Have to Be Original to Be Creative

For those struggling, here are five ways entrepreneurs can start identifying innovative ideas that can rapidly accelerate their business.

1. Recognize innovation opportunities.

Many innovations are developed to solve problems or enhance existing products or services. To determine what needs to be disrupted, develop a habit of noticing problems in your own business, your competitors’ businesses and in your entire industry. If your customers are not satisfied with your existing products, you have an opportunity for innovation. Use these problems as “seeds” for brainstorming innovative ideas.

Similarly, industry-wide challenges and problems with competing products provide wonderful innovation opportunities. If you can solve an industry-wide issue, your business will enjoy a strong competitive advantage. Consider every problem or complaint as a great chance to develop an innovative solution.

2. Find inspiration outside your own industry.

When searching for a creative way to solve a problem, look for similar situations in other industries. Seth Godin states, “Innovation is often the act of taking something that worked over there and using it over here.” Study those similar problems, analyze the solution in the other industry and consider how to apply a similar solution to your own problem.

For example, Henry Ford is not credited with inventing the car nor did he invent the assembly line. Instead, he changed the way cars were built by using a moving assembly line. Where did Henry Ford get the idea for a moving assembly line? From a completely different industry: the meat processing industry. Ford applied a process (the moving assembly line) from a different industry to manufacture automobiles. If he had limited his thinking to his own industry, he might not have developed such a revolutionary process for manufacturing cars.

3. Discover your innovation environment.

To develop innovative ideas for your business, you must find your own “innovation environment” that stimulates creative thinking. By intentionally placing yourself in your unique environment, you increase the chances of developing valuable innovations that will expand your business.

To identify your best innovation environment, make note of the time, location, activity and environmental conditions present when you develop new ideas. By keeping track of this information, you will soon see a pattern develop. Use this pattern to define your personal innovation environment, and visit this environment during your brainstorming sessions to maximize results.

Related: Patent Reform and the Future of Innovation

4. Schedule frequent innovation sessions.

Entrepreneurs have busy schedules and many commitments. To successfully identify and apply innovative ideas, entrepreneurs must block time in their calendar for individual or group innovation sessions. These time blocks should be uninterrupted and focused on only one or two innovation opportunities. If possible, visit your innovation environment during the scheduled time. If you cannot visit your environment, visualize yourself in that environment to best stimulate your innovative thinking.

5. Involve your entire team.

Entrepreneurs often try to do everything themselves but several minds working together can frequently create better innovations. Every individual has unique talents, experiences and ideas. Limiting your innovation activities to just a few people can often result in a failure to identify valuable ideas that can be leveraged to accelerate business growth. Let your entire team help identify ideas and generate potential solutions for any number of innovation opportunities. Developing an innovation culture will produce valuable ideas while fostering a team environment within the organization.

Start implementing these techniques today and begin discovering innovative ideas that will have a dynamic impact on your business.

Related: Make Innovation Systematic and Never Again Ask 'Why Didn't We Think of That?'