Getting Started On Innovation

Coming up with innovative new ideas is often the biggest hurdle in innovation.

One of the reasons that many businesses do not innovate actively is because the first step – coming up with new ideas – can be daunting. You might have a mental image of bringing a handful of your staff into a meeting room with a blank white board, and you say “OK, somebody start innovating.” And everybody stares at that white board like deer looking at the headlights of an oncoming car.

Over the course of my career I have encountered companies in situations like this. They know they need to innovate; they want to innovate; but the bucket of ideas is empty. I have also encountered companies that are prolific at generating innovative ideas for new products and services with regularity, and companies somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes.

I have compiled a list of techniques that small businesses can use to generate ideas for new products and services. I have analyzed and sorted the techniques based on how much time and money it takes to implement them (in general, less time and money is better) and how effective they are at spawning innovative new ideas (in general, more is better).

Papers that describe a number of these techniques are available on the Articles page of the website, in the section on Innovation. I will add new articles at a rate of about one every other month.

If you read the papers on innovation, you can assess which ones would be most applicable to your business and can create a list of techniques you want to use to start innovating. Having a list like this is a great tool for breaking the first big logjam in innovation – coming up with new ideas.

There is a rough order in which I add articles about innovation to the website. I start with techniques that are easiest and cheapest to implement, that are most broadly applicable, and/or are the most reliable at producing results – i.e. at generating new innovative ideas. As I continue to add articles, we get to techniques for innovation that are a bit more costly, or are not as broadly applicable, or are effective in a narrower range of situations or circumstances.

But I have found all of these techniques can be very powerful when they are used in the right situation. And all of these techniques are suitable for small business with limited budgets.