Innovation is the lifeblood of business. Whether you are in food, service or retail, innovation is what drives the growth of the business and is what separates strong, businesses that last with short-term fads. Most entrepreneurs think innovation is an expensive endeavour, but a few simple lessons can help any entrepreneur—whether a startup, a franchise chain or a big conglomerate—create strong innovations that can help propel their growth.
1. Innovations come from observing the world and the people around you.
It’s not often that a great idea will come to you sitting in an office or behind a desk. To start finding nuggets that will help you innovate, you need to observe the world around you. Whether it’s sitting in BGC or Greenbelt watching people, or going into customer’s homes (with permission of course) to observe how they interact with products and everyday items, innovations come from observations.
2. Innovation starts with an un-met need
Don’t force an idea on customers, this seldom works. Innovations usually come from a need that isn’t being met or is not being addressed properly. Speak and observe your customers and find a need that’s not being met and then help them solve it.
3. Ideas that spark innovation can come from anywhere
If you are thinking of an innovation for a new hair care product, don’t just look into the hair care world for innovation, look into other industries and other countries. Same goes with business innovations, look into other related industries or other countries to spark an idea.
4. Do not always try to reinvent the wheel
Innovation is not always inventing the next disruptive innovation, there are also sustaining innovations that continuously improve an existing product or experience. Look at existing products in the market and see how you can truly improve and bring new benefits to customers who use them.
5. A good idea is not enough, innovation needs to be backed by a business model
Once you have an idea, it needs to be backed up by a business model that allows you to generate value from the innovation. What is your cost structure? What are the revenue streams for your innovation? What unique proposition do you bring to the market? Who are the allies, suppliers & distributors you need to tap to bring the innovation to life?
6. Innovation is not just about a product, but creating an eco system
Most innovations start with a great product, idea or service, but to really make it big, you need to create an eco system that comes with it. What network of suppliers need to be developed? Are there complementary products that need to be developed to go with your innovation?
7. When it comes to innovation, sometimes having competitors come in is a good thing
Competition can help increase the awareness of the new product/service and can help speed up adoption of the product. Just make sure that you have a head start and that you are offering something better than competitors.
8. Test your innovation
It does not have to be an expensive market research. It can be in the form of sharing with a few colleagues, friends or a small group of strangers. But be sure you get the right target market who will give you honest advise. It’s great that your mom thinks your idea is the greatest in the world, but be sure she’s saying this objectively and not just because she is your mom.
9. Innovation is not a one time thing, it is a continuous process
Once an innovation or product is developed, make sure you continuously improve it based on customer feedback. For innovations to mature, it requires constant adjustments and improvements.
10. Look for ‘knowledge brokers’ within your organization
For bigger organizations, look for the people who are well networked both formally and informally across the organization. These knowledge brokers will help keep good ideas alive or bring together different ideas to make great ones.
Chris Lim is the CMO of Francorp Philippines (francorp.com.ph); President of U-Franchise Sales & Management (www.ufranchiseasia.com); Chairperson and Director for Special Projects, ASEAN Integration-Philippine Franchise Association