In today’s ever-changing global marketplace, where nonstop innovating has become the price of doing business—and the only “business-as-usual” is that there is no business-as-usual anymore—many organizations struggle to consistently apply innovative thinking, in order to keep up with their customers’ unrelenting demand for “new, different, and better.”
This non-negotiable requirement to innovate is a fire that has been lit under us all. We all know we need it; we all strive to do it. But many of us have only a vague notion of what it is we’re actually working to achieve when we say we’re innovating. Just what is it, anyway?
Innovation can be defined as “the introduction of something new or different that provides greater value or benefit.”
But what do you actually have to do in order to innovate? Just what is needed in order to deliver “greater value or benefit?”
There are a number of proven, innovative thinking approaches we can learn, by studying market leaders, such as Apple, Google, Starbucks, Disney, BMW, and others.
Here are 7 idea-inspiring ways you can improve the characteristics, ingredients, parts, steps, form, functionality, or design of pretty much anything—a product, service, process, idea, message, etc.—in order to make it more innovative in 2016. Begin by taking some time to consider the challenge at hand, and then explore each of the following creative problem-solving approaches, and see which ones spark new, “A-ha!” possibilities.
- Simplify It—Quite often the less complex something is, the more user-friendly it will be. The most innovative ideas are often startling in their simplicity. When unnecessary or cumbersome parts, steps, ingredients, etc. are stripped away, an elegantly effective solution may be revealed. What can be eliminated, streamlined or combined to make your product, service or process as simple as possible?
- Make It More Intuitive—Today most people simply don’t have the time or patience to learn complicated procedures or decipher cryptic instructions. They prefer anything that is easy-to-understand, foolproof and able to be quickly put into practice. In what ways can you make it easier for your customer to comprehend, learn, interact with, or use your goods or services?
- Make It More Beautiful—Apple products are coveted for their sleek and sophisticated design esthetic and elegant functionality. Such highly innovative products often sell at premium prices and inspire fierce devotion among their customers. In what ways can you elevate the esthetics of your goods or service? How can you make them more appealing to the senses? How can you delight your customer with beautiful design and functionality?
- Enhance the Quality—High quality is the competitive advantage that separates the “good” from the “exceptional.” Quality is simply the standard of excellence against which similar things are measured. Top quality goods and services don’t just meet customer expectations—they exceed them. In what ways can you raise your benchmark for excellence to make your product the gold standard in its category?
- Add Emotion—Innovative brands like Coca-Cola, Target, Starbucks, Nike and many others have been able to inspire a strong sense of brand loyalty among their customers. They’ve done this not only by appealing to their audience’s sense of quality and value, but also by forging intimate, heartfelt, emotional connections that transcend logic alone. In what ways can you develop a more emotional relationship with your customers, and connect with them in ways that resonate not only in their minds, but in their hearts?
- Socialize It—Human beings, by nature, seek connection and a sense of community with others— including the brands and companies they value. And nowhere is this tendency more evident than in today’s varied social media outlets. Thanks to omnipresent connectivity provided by mobile technology, we are all able to share our thoughts, likes and dislikes, 24/7/365. For businesses today, this means unlimited opportunities for real-time dialogue and feedback from customers, the ability to quickly crowd-source valuable information, offer incentives and discounts, strengthen customer loyalty, and more. In what ways can you build greater social interactivity and connectivity with your customers? How can you become a meaningful part of their daily lives?
- Inspire Awe—Disruptive innovation introduces the world to radically new and unexpected features, functions, design, or value propositions, with the power to transform markets or even create entirely new ones. Uber and Airbnb are prime examples of disruptive innovations that fundamentally changed their industries, forcing competitors to scramble in an effort to respond. What bold, new, and dramatic ideas can you implement that will set your product or service apart from all others?
These 7 proven creative problem-solving approaches for innovating can be applied to just about anything. The trick is to explore, imagine, and play with the possibilities—while always asking yourself, “In what ways will this change introduce something new or different that provides greater value or benefit?” That’s what innovation is really all about.
Just wake up every day and look for something to improve. There’s always something.
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