Be honest, do you really want to have to innovate? Something extra to measure, to add to the list of metrics, to resource, something else to detract from what you do.

What does innovation even mean?

If we could split it out to give you different things to do at different times, would that help?

Let’s do it now, in three minutes (or less):

  1. Reading future trends

All this means is keeping an eye on what’s going on around you.

Trend analysis starts here – with looking for signals. How does this work in practice? Well, if you’re a manufacturer of fuel tanks, the increase in electrically-powered cars may concern you.

If you make PVC film, the growing alarm about plastic waste in the oceans might suggest a business issue further down the road. On the other hand, if you make wooden surfboards, happy days – the market is moving your way and you can plan to exploit your niche. Similarly, it’s a good time to be making water bottles that filter while you drink, reducing the need for single-use plastic.

These examples show that looking for signals from mega and macro trends that could affect what you do is an important part of the innovation process. There is another element to this, though: you also need the space and time to make connections between what you see and what you do. Public awareness of issues around single-use plastic is one thing, but to associate that with wooden surfboards is another step entirely. We’d suggest (we would, wouldn’t we?) that this is the benefit offered by an external view that sees things differently, and gives you a head start.

  1. Thinking through some ideas

You’ve had a bit of time to look around, subscribe to newsfeeds, and crawl over competitor websites. You’ve visited trade shows and read some magazines. Your head is spinning with the possibilities – some are positive, some worry you.

This is where a process helps: maybe to sort ideas into buckets of interest along different lines.

Perhaps you are time-driven so it suits you to drop ideas into short, medium or long term slots. Perhaps you see the world through engineering eyes, and categorise ideas by degrees of difficulty on an ‘easy to hard’ scale. Either way, how the ideas are handled is what an innovation process can deliver.

We advocate consumer-centricity as the core methodology (i.e. thinking about your business in terms of the solutions your customers need to solve their problem), rather than a traditional business-based one (I make a blue one of these today, so I’ll make a red twin-pack tomorrow and offer it at a discount). There are lots of ways of skinning this cat. The thing to remember is, you’re far better placed to work through a plan that will become a strategy, if you’ve done a bit of trend-reading before you start.

  1. Finding yourself behaving differently

And finally, we get to the pay-off. You are informed about your market. You know more about the world around you than most of your competitors, and you have a forward view of where you’re going. You’re confident about the plan, and the plan will respond to new information because you know you’ll see it. Good job!

Here’s the extra bonus you didn’t plan on: everyone around you knows the same thing. Because you’ve been interested in external influences and have been talking about it, so have your colleagues.

They heard you say the market is moving towards wooden surfboards, so they started looking for sources of the sort of aged, planed, good quality timber that can be split to a thin gauge. Once customers start asking for more boards, your supply chain is already in place. No extra work, no extra effort, just a case of everybody knowing what was most likely to happen and being ready.

That’s an innovation strategy delivered from just being interested and open to new ideas.

Follow this plan and enjoy, or give me a call because I can help you get a head start.

Seeing it differently. Future proofing. It’s what we do.

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