Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

What exactly is innovation, and how can we make it happen?

Innovation is a word that is used very often. What it means, most of us don't really know. Is it brainstorming? Is it disruption? Is it tweaking at the edges? Is it big/small?

Wikipedia says: "An innovation is something original, new, and important – in whatever field – that breaks into (or obtains a foothold in) a market or society."

That's sounds BIG. "Original." "New." "Important."

There is no question that innovation is important. It is a key success factor. It is essential for business survival. It makes your business anti-fragile. Remember what happened to the dinosaurs! You could be Netflixed soon!

The problem with that definition is that it brings innovation into research, development, new product introductions, large budgets and is not where most businesses in Northern Ireland are at. The opportunity costs are too high. We can't afford that type of innovation.

I think it is a state of mind. A state of mind that comes naturally to every entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship and innovation are on different sides of the same coin.

It is not about brainstorming. It is about doing things better, faster, different. It is about introducing top quality nutrition in a creche. Or making auctions very, very simple. Not the BIG stuff. It is the small stuff. Every entrepreneur does that! Personally I like the Thefreedictionary.

com definition: "The act of introducing something new".

Once you agree that 'new', means different and in a local context, you can develop low risk ideas with quick impact on your bottom line.

So start observing, associating and 'question storm' regularly. Realise that most first ideas are flawed, that most ideas are bad ideas, that insights come from the outside and that creativity is a choice.

And keep the focus. Only look for ideas that matter to the business.

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