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9 Sources of Innovation

        posted by , May 12, 2013

Innovation isn't easy.

Valuable new ideas don't grow on trees. Firms that are committed to research and development look beyond executive management and marketing teams for ideas.

The School of Athens

When you're trying to solving difficult commercial problems you'll take worthy ideas where ever you can find them.

The following sources of innovation tend to yield results.

1. Markets

Innovation never happens in a vacuum. Keep an eye on your competitors and your markets. Avoid the trap of copying competitors. Innovation is about jumping past competitors not emulating them.

2. Customers

If you don't meet your customer's needs you're not innovating.

Customers help you to identify urgent needs. They rarely provide the solution. Don't ask your customers what type of car they want. Ask them why they drive. Ask them what they worry about. Ask them about their aspirations. Show them designs for emotional responses.

3. Sales

Salespeople are another important source of customer needs information. In many cases, they understand the customers better than the customers understand themselves. For example, customers may believe they make purchases for logical reasons when they are truly driven by emotion.

4. Partners

Research partnerships can play big dividends for all involved. Involve suppliers and partners who hold pieces of the puzzle that you lack.

5. Universities

Universities are hot beds of innovation. Build deep relationships with a University or two.

6. Innovation Teams

The traditional approach to innovation is to commit your best people to cross-functional innovation teams (e.g. product development teams). This approach is important for early stage innovation and critical for late state innovation.

7. Employees

Establish programs such as 80/20 time that allow your employees to develop innovation. Provide support, validation, incentives and a path to commercialization.

8. Executive Management

Executive management may set strategic direction for innovation or they may be deeply involved in the details. Either way, it's important to be open to other sources of ideas and solutions.

9. Innovation Consultants

Consultants who facilitate innovation processes can be helpful.

Next: Why Innovation Is Important

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