It’s a new year, which often signals it’s time for a new start – time to put into play some of those ideas percolating around your brain. But many a business owner often feels too overwhelmed with the daily task of keeping everything running to think about how to change things up. Many don’t know where to start.
If the word innovation causes little beads of sweat to form on your forehead, you’re not alone. You know you need to innovate, but carving out time to do it seems impossible, and implementing change seems like such a long road.
And if your business is already booming, why change what’s already working?
Time to Stand Out
This is exactly the time to focus on innovation. Dr. Evans Baiya, technology and innovation strategist at Price Associates, says this is the key moment to focus on standing out. “It’s about differentiating yourself from your competitors,” Baiya says.
He explains that if you don’t take this time to set your business apart, you’ll be the same as your competitors when the economy makes its typical, cyclical downturn, which can lead to businesses becoming victims of the market. The focus now should be on standing out and growing.
So, where to start? Innovation begins with knowing your purpose and what outcome you want.
“Innovation happens when you know what you are trying to achieve and have identified what facet of your business to add value to,” Baiya said.
It can be as simple as changing up an internal process or as big as changing your marketing strategy. Innovation needn’t be earth-shattering; it needs to be 1) doable and 2) a change that can be accomplished in small actions over time.
Price Associates CEO Ron Price has spent years developing the best way for companies to innovate.
“Identifying the problem-opportunity is only the first stage; each stage has a different set of outcomes, tools, methods and skills that create success.”
In their book The Innovator’s Advantage, Price and Baiya help guide those who seek to innovate through the steps by defining them clearly, offering up real-world success stories and ways to steer clear of pitfalls – all in a way that’s approachable and consumable for any business person in any market or industry. Carefully and with their own deep experience in tow, these two experts break down the innovation process in these six steps:
Identify. Identify what you want to change. This is the time to put ideas on paper, to bring in employees and customers, and to do your own research. Whatever it takes, make sure you have a good idea pool to address the changes you want to make.
Define. Once you’ve identified concerns, define which can and should be addressed, and create a list of three or four options to change them. Remember, the market doesn’t reward for complexity. The market rewards for ideas that are implemented and create benefit. Price says when defining the process or product you intend to change, create the vision of where you want to be at the end.
Develop. For an innovative idea to be useful, it must be replicable without taking too much time or money. Make sure it is the right move to make. Developing a plan to execute your new product or process will save time and money when you’re ready to roll it out. During this phase, you can do small tests to see how it might work.
Verify. This is the preliminary roll-out, putting your new product or process to the test. As you test your new idea, verify that your implementation is better than what you had before and that your business or customers are benefiting from it. You can verify by testing on a small customer base or doing small demonstrations of your new product.
Deploy. This is the major roll-out – when the rubber meets the road. It’s also when you need to look at all the data you can collect. Baiya reminds this data is essential in determining if the innovation is a success or if changes need to be made. Paying attention to the data will show if your customer base is on board and willing to pay for the innovation or whether your business will benefit in other ways.
Scale. In this critical stage of innovation, innovation adjusted and refined and gives you the opportunity to decide if you need to scale up or down.
Price reminds us: “Innovation doesn’t have to consume inordinate amounts of time and money, especially once you understand the process.”
Being innovative should always be a part of any business approach. With creative thinking, problems can be solved differently and strategically. The right innovative techniques can help save precious time and money, giving any business a competitive lead in expansion.