Be remarkable - how to become innovative - Business Works
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Be remarkable - how to become innovative

Julian Cooper, MD, Clarendon Business Centres Innovation has been in the news a lot lately, with the increasing pressure on Apple to bring out something on the same game-changing level as the iPad and how CEO Tim Cook is feeling the weight of the technological world on his shoulders.

There have also been lots of surveys and news reports suggesting that, not only is the UK falling behind when it comes to innovation, but also that 74% of HR professionals in the UK think their company could be doing more.

The business world is a fast and ever-changing place, with some sectors moving faster than others to stand out and do things differently.

However, now could not be a better time to try and innovate, to create new products, processes and ideas that could shape the way your company does things for the next generation.

Nike is a very good example of a company that has innovation at the core of its culture; they used to be known solely for their sporting apparel and accessories, but have recently started to invest more in creating gadgets to go with their more well-known products. This has resulted in voting them to be the most innovative company of 2013.

Their FuelBand is one such technological gadget and is the 'clearest sign that Nike has transformed itself into a digital force'.

"Nike has broken out of apparel and into tech, data, and services, which is so hard for any company to do", says Forrester Research analyst, Sarah Rotman Epps as reported in this article on

The Fuelband actually monitors your daily physical activity and breaks it down into sections so that you can see what you have exactly done. It also colour codes things nicely so that you can see what targets you have met for that day; as well as this, it allows you to share the results with your social circles.

So, what can you do to innovate more?

Allocate enough time for research and development

It doesnít matter if your product and service offering is as dry as the Sahara, you have an audience for it otherwise you would not be in business. This also means you have the potential to think outside your self-imposed limits and create something that makes people sit up and listen.

think outside your self-imposed limits

Think youíve got all your bases covered? Think again.

Do some research and find out what your customers want. It could be that people are searching for products related to yours that either donít exist yet or exist in a slightly different form.

This is one thing that Apple and Samsung are both very good at when bringing out new products. They donít just think people will like the products, they know they will. This is because they understand the inner workings of their market like no other business. They know what the common problems are and what will make life easier for their target audience.

This isnít to say that they donít misfire sometimes, just that they are less likely to.

Ways in which you can research to be more innovative:

  • Survey your customers Ė create free forms on Google Drive and send them out to your customer base.
  • Become members of any industry forums or sites you know your decision makers are likely to frequent.
  • Conduct keyword research using Googleís free Keyword Planner tool. All you have to do is type in a phrase and the tool will not only tell you how many people have searched for that in the last month, it will also suggest similar phrases you might not have thought of. This kind of research is a great way of showing you what questions your audience is asking.
  • Research what products and services are out there already. Itís no good getting a great idea, pursuing it and then realising your competitor did it five years ago.
  • Focus on one thing to innovate. If you sell packaging for example, why donít you focus on making your offering more environmentally friendly or more durable?

This template is useful if you are looking to change one of your products but need to narrow it down further.

Give your employees time to play

This is something that works particularly well in the digital world, but can work in any sector.

Set aside time in which employees should try and see how they can make their individual jobs easier or please customers more. This could mean allowing them to present ideas, not only on products and services, but common processes and rules.

Run idea workshops giving employees a problem to solve. Break them up into teams and turn it into a competition if you find that motivates people more.

innovation - nothing is too big or too small

When it comes to innovation, nothing is too big or too small. As long as it helps your company, it is important.

Nike has done this really well. They frequently gather ideas and test them until they come up with something marketable. Donít be afraid to do this. Youíll never know if you donít try!

Google is also known for giving employees time to play and look where they are now.

Think culturally Ė make it easy to innovate

Nothing strangles a company like a determination to keep things a certain way, no matter what.

Do you find it easy to innovate at the moment or are you too bogged down with the day to day elements of running or working for a business?

If so, imposing new rules isnít going to change that. Your whole company culture needs to be looked at before change can be implemented.

Culture is the backbone of many an organisation and can be the reason employees leave or stay for years and years.

Review your internal processes

Working the standard 9-5? Are employees sitting in old cubicles to work? Are you using a filing system that was in operation before you started working for the company? Why?

If you find it works for you then thatís absolutely fine. Thereís nothing wrong with sticking to the tried and tested if it really does work better for your business than a change would. Change for the sake of it is also a killer.

However, if you feel you could do with a shakeup then why donít you try a few things to see what works?

Some examples could be:

  • Flexi Time: Some companies give their employees core hours to be in the office and then allow them to do the rest of their time whenever they want in the week. This gives people a feeling of control over their time.
  • Premises: Could you work from home and use a virtual office for example? It can seem an out there idea, but it could save you some money.
  • Seating arrangements: Why donít you shake these up a little bit? Break up groups and try a new system to see if it works? Get employee feedback on this idea and use it wisely.

Just do it

So youíve got the idea and itís ready to launch, but you are feeling a little apprehensive about making the change. Itís easy to bounce ideas around and say youíre being innovative, but if nothing really changes then youíve just wasted a lot of time and hot air.

In the words of Nike themselves, just do it. If your research is sound then you are sitting on a potential winner.

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