Being different is easy. Being distinctive in the marketplace … now that takes work. But, according to a study by Booz Allen Hamilton, it doesn’t require you to break the bank for new research and development.
In fact, the study shows that creating and delivering products and services that set you apart has more to do with how you innovate than how much money you spend to innovate.
Let’s say this another way – the leaders in innovation achieve better results from their research and development efforts because they have a systematic process for leveraging their good ideas into a product or service that is more valuable in the marketplace.
The Booz report also describes three styles of innovators:
• Need Seekers who focus on developing products and services that are in tune with the desires of their customers.
• Market Readers who prefer to follow the trends, see what their competitors are doing, and create incremental improvements.
• Technology Drivers who use their technological expertise to develop products that their customers don’t even know they need until they see it.
So one of those should be the preferred approach, right? Not according to this report. Your innovation style has little to do with long-term success IF you master all the steps supporting that approach.
To quote the study: The capabilities required to pursue each strategy form a systematic set of skills, processes, and tools that companies must focus on to succeed at each stage of the innovation process.
Booz identified twenty-one key activities that must be accomplished to excel at innovation. These steps are broken down into four categories:
1. Ideation: How you come up with your initial list of ideas
2. Project Selection: How you select the idea you want to turn into a product or service
3. Product Development: How you produce the product or service for delivery
4. Commercialization: How you introduce the idea to the marketplace
This report is critical if you are a business owner or executive, but it is equally compelling when you apply its lessons to your career, your team’s performance, or even your relationships.
Here’s how you can begin to innovate without a big budget:
1. Pick an area on which you to focus. You can seek a need, follow a trend, or look for a technological expertise to exploit.
2. Complete this question: “Wouldn’t it cool if we could …” The goal here is to come up with a clear problem statement that helps you be distinctive and adds value to your customer.
3. Create as many ideas as you can to solve that problem. Don’t worry about finding the best idea at this point. The more the better.
4. Select or craft the best solution. Focus on an idea that utilizes your strengths, overcomes your weaknesses, and makes your customer ecstatic.
5. Work on the implementation until you are confident that you can deliver.
6. Go for it and fine tune along the way.
The present should be guided more by the future than the past. Now is the time to focus your energy and have the courage to ask “Wouldn’t it be cool if …?”