Tag Archive: innovation_small_business

The Six Rules of Innovation

The Six Rules of Innovation
In the late 1930s, George de Mestral went for a walk in the woods. He wanted to catch some damselflies to view them underhis new microscope, but the only thing he was able to catch were scores of sticky burrs in his sock. De Mestral decided to look at the burrs under his microscope to see what made them stick. He discovered that each burr was covered with hundreds of tiny “hooks” that grabbed onto anything with a loop, such as clothing fiber, animal fur, or even human hair.

And that is when George de Mestral had his big idea – his “aha” moment.

If he could figure out a way to duplicate the hooks and loops found in microscopic nature, he could have a new product that would fasten things together without the use of a zipper or button. And so his quest to figure out how to make this happen began.

Being creative usually does not come easily. The very nature of innovation is that the creator sees something extraordinary when others see the ordinary. George de Mestral is a prime example of this. As he took his idea around Lyon, France, every weaver concluded that his hook and loop fastener idea was not feasible. De Mestral persistently continued, and finally found one expert who was willing to try to recreate the burr’s hooking mechanism.

It took almost 10 years, but the inventor finally succeeded in creating this new type of fastener, butthe product still needed a name. De Mestral liked the sound of “vel” derived from the French word for velvet, “velour” and “cro” from the French word for hook, “crochet,” and the name “Velcro” stuck.

Entrepreneurs get ideas all of the time, but how do you, like George de Mestral, take that idea from inspiration to innovation? Several years ago, I wrote a book on that very subject called “The Big Idea.” In it, I examined how great, creative businesses are born. Through my research, I found there are 6 rules for innovation and they are as follows:

1. Think of things that never were and ask, “why not?”: Bobby Kennedy’s famous motto, adapted from George Bernard Shaw, is an apt description of the first ingredient necessary to be creative and innovative in your business. Terrific businesses come from inspired ideas, and it is important to remember that inspiration can strike at any time.

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss.

2. The power of one: The second lesson in business creativity is that one person makes a difference. Whatever business or product you look at, you will invariably find that there was some man or woman behind it who worked hard to make it a success.

3. Keep it simple: When you create a new product or offering , you are asking people to give up something tried and true. So, the simplier it is to understand and use – the better.

4. Try, try again: The path of creativity is not always easy. Getting a business right often takes trial and error, followed by a few mistakes, perhaps a couple of bonehead moves, and only then, maybe, a homerun.

When Dr. Percy Spencer noticed that the chocolate bar in his pocket melted after standing near a magnetron tube, he realized that something unique had occurred. Yet the first microwave oven took years to develop, and even then was 5 1/2 feet tall, weighed over 750 pounds and cost more than $5,000. It would take years of trial and error before Raytheon was able to create a “radar range” that could be used by the public.

5. Creativity in business requires risk: If an entrepreneur is a person who takes a risk with money to make money, then being a business innovator must make one an uber-entrepreneur. It will not be an easy path. Will it be exciting, crazy, fun, exasperating, rewarding, frightening, and challenging? You bet. But it won’t be easy, and it will require risk.

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6. Synergy is necessary: Synergy, a word coined by Buckminster Fuller, is generally thought to mean that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In business, creative solutions usually require joint effort.

M.H. Lawrence wrote this in his book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred . . . I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.’”

The bottom line is this: To be creative, you have to be bold. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. How have you been innovative lately? Or, how do you plan to increase your small business’ innovation? Share your thoughts with the SBOC community below.

The Small Business Self-Assessment Quiz – 7 Questions to Ask Yourself

The Small Business Self-Assessment Quiz – 7 Questions to Ask Yourself
It is easy when you are a small business owner to have a narrow view of how you are doing. If things are going well and you are making a profit, you are in good shape, right? And, if you are in a rough spot and money is tight, then you need to be doing something better, no?

Let me suggest that both views are probably too myopic, and as a result, probably incorrect as well. Judging the success or failure of your business by a snapshot of how you are doing today, or this week, or even this month, is not what the savvy businessperson does. Do you think Howard Schultz determines how Starbucks is doing based on the sales of one day, or one region, or one product? Of course not. A lot more factors into the equation.

Here then are 7 things to examine vis-à-vis your business in order to determine how you are really doing.

1. Marketing: Of course you have a few marketing tricks up your sleeve, after all, if you didn’t, you would not be in business. But having some old standbys is not good enough. When was the last time you invented a new marketing campaign? Great businesses not only have a variety of marketing methods, but the marketing tactics are innovative and refreshed on an ongoing basis. They all may not work, but the point is, by continuing to market in different ways, you will learn what does work, and that’s key.

2. Social media: Hot on the tail of marketing generally is social media – specifically Twitter and Facebook. Compared to more traditional marketing approaches, social media is the new frontier. It is an area that you should have begun making traction in; if this isn’t the case, you need to determine how social media best aligns with your business goals and begin immediately. 3. Culture: All small businesses have a culture. While most are by default, what you want is a culture by design. Why? Culture is the air that your staff breathes – and the values they work by. It is your vision for your business made tangible on a daily basis. Is your small business a fun, engaging place to work? Are people treated with respect? These things make a huge difference.

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4. Brand: Think of your brand as your culture turned inside out. If your culture is how your business is run internally, your brand is what people see from the outside. The best businesses have a synergy and integrity between their culture and brand. The values of each should be identical.

5. Operations: How is your business run on a day-to-day basis? Is it efficient and effective? Do you treat customers well? Are emails returned promptly and professionally? What about returns? It’s essential not to overlook operations – because your customers surely won’t.

6. Innovation: It doesn’t matter whether you work in a big or small business, great businesses innovate. Innovation may be a new product that shocks the world, or it could just be a new way to serve sushi. Either way, new ideas are exciting, get people jazzed and lead to new business opportunities.

7. Strategic planning: Lastly, the best businesses continue to take their vision, brand, culture and the rest and put them down on paper. They strive to apply their lofty rhetoric to the real world by setting goals and committing to numbers. These visionary leaders don’t lose sight of the big picture, and continue to work toward positioning their business for future success.