Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Research Towards Innovation

Using research to breed innovation can be essential for your business. It is said that the more that you know, the more that you can do with what you know.

Research, unlike R&D (research and development) is more like a long term commitment whereas with R&D it focuses on the short term. Looking beyond your business’ current practices, research can produce slow and steady growth for your business.

Unfortunately, research comes with costs involved. Many companies in this economy have cut spending in all departments of their business and this may have affected or axed their budget on research. This can be a very shortsighted decision as this may save money right now but has the potential for your business to come out the loser in the long run.

Research does not have to been a huge expense. If you use customer feedback to your advantage, it is a form of research. By tapping into a consumer’s wants and needs, you can find out a great deal of knowledge that can be practically applied to your business. Acquiring feedback can be as simple as a meeting with your customer, picking up the phone to call them or by sending them an email. What you learn from these interactions can help grow your business.

Innovation through Customization

The word custom when used as an adjective gives the connotation of exclusivity and that it is special. If you have something customized for you, it has a stamp on it that says that it is you. This is why customization can be very appealing as a business innovation.

What if you started with a very good, basic product and asked your clients what they would like to add to it or how they would like to change it? This would open a dialog between you and your consumer that can help develop your products and services to fit their needs exactly and therefore ensuring future business.

A past slogan of Chrysler’s was “If you can dream it, we can build it.” Given the state of the car manufacturers right now, that slogan might not have really worked for them, however the sentiment is viable.

If you present consumers with a “can do” attitude and can offer them the ability to tell you what they would really want, it can increase your products or service’s desirability. Additionally, by making your customers feel like their needs are met and that what they have purchased from you is customized to their needs, you can get more business from their referrals.

A Change of Approach

It is all about supply and demand. You just need to figure out how to best fit the right market’s demand with your supply. This is sometimes not the easiest thing to accomplish, but perhaps if you change your approach and think differently, you may be able to do just that.

Emerging global markets can be the key in growing your business. If you make your product or service highly desirable to them, and you address their unique needs and problems, you can succeed.
It may take a simple tweaking of your product line or a slight change in the services you provide that can make all of the difference. You can add features to increase value or to appeal to lower income markets you can have a simpler version of your product or service on offer.

Succeeding in emerging markets is about a broader scope of thinking. In the U.S., we are all about what is new and different. In other markets, it could be simply the manner that you solve their problems and fit their needs that will be successful.

If you truly understand your market and change your approach to adapt to that market, you can reach your goals on a global scale.

Microsoft

There are very few companies in the world that have had more success than Microsoft, headed by the world’s richest man. Thinking about this company is to think about everything that it has touched, and it still innovates the way that we consider software. Without Microsoft, there would be fewer applications for computers, and a lot less people who have made genius out of some of the products that this corporation has engineered.

If one is to examine the PC, one will easily find that nearly all of their applications are engineered by Microsoft. Above this, there is something to be said about the management, which is comprised of some of the most brilliant minds the industry will know. Another thing about the corporation is that they do not have fear in expanding into newer markets. Consider their foray into the video game industry with the Xbox. At the time, this was a field dominated by Nintendo and Sony, yet the Xbox debuted and held its own with improved graphical performance.

Something else noteworthy about Microsoft is that they are very willing to change strategies according to the market, and this is performed in a way that is unparalleled and uncontested in the case of similar corporations.

Google

Google has always been a leader in innovation, as being the king of all search engines. The company always has plans to stay ahead of the curve, and they usually have. With the unveiling of Bing by Microsoft, and the monster that is Yahoo, they have come up with an innovative strategy to unseat these titans.

On problem that we can agree on with Google is that they have never really had much success in the ad world. In text based ads alongside the search engines, sure, but that’s about where their success stops. After failed TV and radio spots, they’ve decided to try something a bit different.

They are taking the fight to performance ads, which essentially work as a search engine. This summer, they are really bringing out the big guns. They acquired DoubleClick last year, and they are using ad exchanges (essentially like stock in online advertisement.)

After revamping the formula that made DoubleClick famous, they are hoping that this will possibly help them take the advertising crown. After streamlining the software that DoubleClick utilizes, they are hoping that advertisers will buy ads more quickly. When ad space, price and demographics that match the criteria of an advertiser, these spots will run instantly, something unheard of in the market.

Amazon

In this every propelling world to the paperless office, there has been much advancement made to make this true in societies across the world. With this said, there are few people who have not read at least one e-book in their lives, and there are many people who are foraying into the world that is the electronic book. Amazon unveiled the Kindle a few years ago, an e-book reader.

The Kindle was something that caught on quite rapidly with its use for education and professional applications, so they gave it another go with the Kindle DX. The newer version is under $500. This can actually be pretty good buy, considering the upgrades they have made on the previous model. It’s newer screen is more than three times the previous offering by Amazon, something that will make the people who bought the last one a bit happier, if they specifically enjoyed it.

Undoubtedly, the most innovative aspect of the Kindle is the fact that it can display PDF files without any conversion whatsoever. Amazon specifies an address for conversion, and at a low rate, they will deliver the Kindle formatted document back to the reader, without any formatting differences.

Managing Change in a Tough Economy

Your first inclination might be to buckle down and continue to run your business in the same way that you always have in this tough economy. There is a very real reason that you should use this opportunity to shake things up and make some changes to the way that you operate. A difficult economy has a way of producing winners and losers by the time that it finally turns around and you want your company to be ready for the roller coaster ride that is coming your way.

Preparing for a change in the way that the market operates is one of the things that will make your company one of the winners at the end of the difficult economy. The market is destined to change and the way that your customers currently spend their money will also change. Your business must find a way to fit in with this new way that the market will operate.

It is clear that consumers will become much more careful with their money in a tough economy and that means that you must find a way for your products to be an indispensable part of their lives. Your product must be one of those things that is essential to everyone in order for it to survive.

Innovate for the Long Term

True innovations take time to gather speed and find a market niche.  Twenty years ago, who would have thought cell phones and the Internet, were standard tools in most homes.  Nobody had even heard of the Internet and cell phones were still big bulky things that looked like big white bricks.  Today, it is almost impossible to function without the internet (you wouldn’t be reading this blog without it) and almost every household has at least one cell phone user in it.

Innovative technologies take time to become universal because the general public needs to be educated about just how much they must have the new product and how it will improve their life by leaps and bounds.  Case in point, Google.  The first year of operation, 1998, Google only made about $200,000 in revenue.  At that time, the Internet was still a fairly new innovation that was not being used in most households.  Now Google is one of the giants in the technology sector, with a search engine, an email client, Google Earth and other new products that are rolled out with regular frequency that keeps interest in Google fresh.

When considering introducing a new product or technology, consider the long term and educate potential customers about just how innovative and necessary your new product is to them.

Use Consumer Technology as a Springboard to Innovation

You’ve either seen them or you have them – new consumer communication devices that allow a convergence of all kinds of methods of communication. Smart phones, mini computers, handheld game systems, and organizers have become faster, smaller, and capable of carrying out multiple tasks at once.

As people, your customers, take advantage of all these new technological marvels, where is your business in the process? These changes in the communication systems provide opportunity for an innovate push in creating interaction with your business’s public. Consider also the social networking community and the opportunities those sites provide.

While there are concerns that must be addressed, it’s a useful exercise to look at the innovative ways your company can utilize these new resources, both within the company in employee interactions, but also outside the company in the interactions it has with its customers.

If a company sees these new technologies as an opportunity to connect in ways not before considered. This creates an excellent opportunity for innovation as both the IT team and the customer service team.

Don’t get caught in the rut of “This is how we’ve always done it.” Instead, look at the technology and see how your employees and customers use it. Think of the possibilities, and come up with some interesting ways to integrate that technology into your everyday practices.

See http://businessinnovation.cmp.com/collaboration/feat_collaboration_12092008.jhtml;jsessionid=LFLESCIQPZG30QSNDLPSKH0CJUNN2JVN for more ideas.

Innovation Requires “Me” Time

What creates an atmosphere where creative ideas can flow? Where innovation is second nature? It can feel impossible to innovate because we are so preoccupied with the mundane daily tasks that fill our time.

It’s important to take care of payroll and be sure people are paid. It may be important to talk with product development and keep a handle on what’s going on – there are all kinds of things that take our time in the day-to-day functioning of the business.

However, it’s impossible to really think creatively with so much noise going on all of the time. You also need to take some “me” time, or some time off from the routine, and contemplate your problems with an innovative mindset.

Innovation is by definition a creative process. Being too caught up in just staying ahead of the next meeting means that we never get to step back from problems and consider innovative solutions.

That’s why, even when it seems too busy, a good manager, a good innovator, will take some time for him/her self and just step back to mull things over.
Write the problem down, brainstorm with yourself, and bring someone else in, if it helps. Give yourself time to simply stew over it. You’ll come up with ideas and new approaches that you won’t think of in the midst of a rush.
Take time to be innovative.