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 Ten Steps to Innovation

Ten Steps to Innovation

Any organisation can be more innovative – you don’t have to employ a James Dyson or a Steve Jobs. Here is a range of ideas that can be used by any team in any company.

Generating the Spark......

Step 1

A space to dream – Create a work environment that boosts innovative thinking

Stand back and look at your work spaces.  Do they speak conformity or individuality?  Are workers allowed to embellish their desks/walls to make them their own or are they hot-desking and feeling like a robot that ‘plugs in’ to the corporate ‘machine’?  Conformity and anonymity will crush the spark of new and different ideas.  If you have no choice or need to have a neat and tidy space open to the public, create a special thinking place with flipcharts, colourful and giant post-its, markers – allow people to have time to express their ideas, encourage drawing, ask them to build on seemingly unachievable visions, give awards to the most promising contributions.

Step 2

Play – exploring and prototyping

Did you know Dyson created over 5000 prototypes of his vacuum cleaner before hitting on the perfect model? Did you know that WD40 had 39 prototypes that didn’t quite work? True innovators have to be able to play with their ideas. Play and fun is an essential factor in the development of creativity. Encourage people to mock-up their ideas, in true ‘Blue Peter’ style with card and sticky tape if necessary (in the ‘thinking room’)! Suggest that budding innovators pilot their projects.  If they don’t work first time, don’t shut down their resources, or insist they get back to the ‘day job’. Have a little faith, get them back to the thinking room, and you may have the next great money spinner!

Step 3

1 + 1 = 3 – creating unusual combinations that spark innovative hybrids

Have you someone in your organisation who is insatiably curious, who always wants to learn new things, who travels and talks about the interesting new ideas he/she has found?  Get them thinking: ‘How could we use that idea here?’ 

‘Nicking’ and copying ideas with a new twist is a great basis for innovation.  Could good new products and approaches in another industry spark a new line for you? Create a photo gallery and encourage staff to post up interesting pictures, ads, web printouts, etc, and change the display regularly!


Step 4

Be a people watcher – ask, watch, learn and try

Whenever you’re out and about, don’t bury your head in a book or paper, watch everyone around you.  Look at how they use the environment, what they’re wearing, what they are interested in.  Observe your own customers using your product or service (and your competitors’) whenever you can.  Ask for feedback, even if (especially if) it’s negative.

Talk to the younger generations – how will they use your product/service in 10-20 years time? Find out what is really interesting them now.  Can you put yourself in others’ shoes and develop your offering so that it’s the best?


Connecting Up......

Step 5

Me + you – valuing partnership more than individual achievement, and turning opposition into a positive force

Who do you trust? Who don’t you trust? Are you missing out on creative opportunities by resisting collaboration with others? Are egos blocking your ability to see the talent in someone outside your section or organisation?  Are your negotiations with your customers/suppliers competitive or win-win?  Do you ever talk to your competitors?  Do you ever have fun activities with partner organisations?  Seek a way of sharing problems and needs with others and offer them help with theirs, you may be surprised at the interesting and profitable results.

Step 6

Create a remarkable customer experience – help your customers feel how good your product/service is

Think of the five senses – sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Think of the ways people experience life – work, rest, play, love, friendship.  Think of the ways we all learn – visual, aural, kinetic.  How many ways can you ‘wow’ the customer to give them an ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ experience of your product/service?

Step 7

True myths – make heroes out of real people and build a new culture

‘Stories persuade in a way that facts, reports, and market trends seldom do, because stories make an emotional connection’.  Tom Kelley – The Ten Faces of Innovation.

The Ancient Greeks conveyed wisdom about the human condition with stories of gods and heroes.    Clever business people use stories to convince both customers and staff of important truths when logic fails. For example - the value of the product/service in the world; the reasons for doing certain things in certain ways; the benefits of change; and the future vision of the organisation. Use true stories about your organisation to share and grow the culture you want to see.



Step 8

‘I’d do anything…’  - think one customer at a time and take care of each one the best you can

If you want to make your customers really love you – you have to love them first! As a customer, which organisation really cares for you?  What do they do?  Who in your organisation cares (really cares) about each customer as an individual?  The concept of customer care is so overtalked that we risk ‘CC Fatigue’!  Try using different terminology – guests/friends/VIP’s/people!  What if every customer was ‘first-class’? What extras could you give your ‘friends’ for free?

Step 9

Let those who can, do..- hatching out the ideas and getting them up and running

Ideas alone won’t deliver innovation at the cutting edge – they have to be translated into action. This is where your visionary project managers are in their element, gathering the right people together, organising resources, planning, and generating results.  These people need to be given authority to provide the practical framework to translate thinking into product/service.

Step 10

Beyond adversity to opportunity – working cleverly outside the system to do more with less

Do you have a maverick who infuriatingly seems to sidestep policies and procedures, yet creates the essential opportunity that breaks through an insurmountable barrier?  Don’t stifle them with rules and regulations (they won’t take any notice anyway!).  Call them in when you think all is lost and let them loose to make contacts, agree deals, and get round the system. (Just give them a few parameters so you can sleep at night!)


Like to know more? Ring 07514 031549 for details of our in-house workshop