You have to be extraordinary agile to keep up with today's constantly changing competitive environment. The best way to ensure lasting success is to make sure that everyone in your company is encouraged and rewarded for thinking and behaving creatively. Create a culture of creativity and innovation and you will:
- Continue to deliver products and/or services that are valuable to your customers
- Establish yourself as a market leader
- Build a more vibrant and engaged workforce
- Become an expert at identifying and acting upon great ideas
Encourage brainstorming and idea generationInnovation is essentially the introduction of something new - the concrete result of creative ideas. With the right tools, everyone can be taught to think creatively.
Listen to your customersYour customers are often your best source of new ideas. Ask them how they'd like your product or service improved, but also master the art of observing them. Look for trouble spots; they're your opportunity for innovation.
Turn Customer Input into Innovation.
Develop systematic methods for evaluating new ideasConsider all ideas, even the ones that seem a little crazy. But make sure you evaluate them objectively before investing time and money bringing them to market.
Protect new inventionsGreat ideas breed copycats. First, do a thorough patent search to make sure you're not infringing on anyone else's territory, and then register your own patent or copyright.
The Inventor's Handbook to find out whether your idea is patentable. Go to The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to do trademark and patent searches. Access patent application forms on this page of the USPTO site. File a USPTO trademark application here.
Reward success (and failure!)Employees need to feel invested in innovation, so reward them for suggesting great ideas that fly and for "failing fast" with ones that don't quite get off the ground.
Principles for Successful Employee Recognition.
- Customers can't always articulate their needs, so instead of asking them about your product or service, watch them using it and look for trouble spots.
- Educate employees about the rules of engagement for brainstorming (i.e. no negative comments!).
- If you've invented a new product, seek legal advice on patents and trademarks immediately.
- Great innovation breeds copycats, so stay one step ahead of the competition by innovating continuously, not just once.
- Prototype new ideas as quickly as possible to give them form and substance.