I hate to be the one to tell you this, but – according to BusinessWeek – a 40-year old adult is about two percent as creative as a five-year-old child. Extensive studies show that there is a 98 percent chance you were a creative genius before age four. Dr. Seuss described adult people like you and me, as “obsolete children.”**
So What happened, People!!?
Most of us grew up and joined the Deadly Serious Party. But there is still hope; I’m delighted to see in Ubud a blossoming guerrilla movement with people like James Harvey, Janita Himawati and Kate Harrington providing opportunities for adult play where grown-up people actually do enjoy themselves letting go. There needs to be a lot more.
I’m suggesting to you, if you want your business to be ridiculously successful, get out there and play.
Let your creative juices run- Innovate
Like the two Russian scientists playing with graphene and sellotape at University of Manchester – their play made them into Nobel Laureates in 2010 and generated the next big wave of graphene-based products. The uses are nearly limitless – flexible electronics that could be worn on clothes or folded up into a pocket, a new generation of very small computers, hyper-efficient solar panels and super-fast mobile phones, water purification, bullet-proof vests, electricity conductors, computer components, car and plane components.
This product promises to transform the future. Graphene, a two-dimensional crystal of pure carbon, is a superlative material. It is the thinnest and strongest substance known to science – about 100 times stronger than steel by weight. A square metre of graphene, a thousand times thinner than paper, made into a hammock would be strong enough to cradle a 4kg cat, but weigh no more than one of its whiskers. Discovered with play. ***
What is innovation?
The most successful entrepreneurs:
- continuously look for better ways
- to satisfy their consumer base (adding customer value)
- meeting new requirements, unexpressed needs, or unsatisfied customer and market needs
- with improved quality, durability, service, and price.
Innovation answers these needs through more effective products, processes, services, by using advanced technologies and organizational strategies.
Your business needs to innovate for a number of reasons:
- Innovation of products, services and organizational capabilities can help generate explosive growth.
- Innovation can help ensure you aren’t just a commodity business on low margins.
- Innovation can help you meet customers’ demands and expectations of more and more from your brand, thus increasing the lifetime value of your customers. See Touchpoints.
- Innovation can help you do more with less, improving your profitability.
Most innovations build on something that is already there. Did you know that when Gutenberg invented the printing press he brought together a wine press, and a coin stamp? Gutenberg came from the wine-producing Rhine Valley so he combined functional things he knew into a function totally different. His innovation revolutionised access to information.
Similarly, Apple wasn’t the first to make a portable MP3 player. But Apple built on the product to create a SYSTEM that included the product and the music and a store to easily buy the music from. People speak of the iPod but really the killer innovation was the system.
Sure, most of us aren’t Apple or Gutenberg or Russian scientists but we can still dream and play. However, you need to ensure you are playing in the right sandpit. Before you start innovating away, have you gone through the basics of defining your business strategy? How long since you did a decent SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats? How long since you actively watched your customers use your product or service?
Do these steps first or you will waste a lot of your valuable time:
It’s very hard to stay ahead of the game with a new innovative product, because it’s much easier now for competitors to be quickly aware of your improvement and copy it. And small business doesn’t have many opportunities to build bold new products. What you can be more easily innovate is optimizing the customer experience. Competition will always be based on meaningful differentiation, so focus as much or more on emotions and intangibles as new products and services.
The customer experience covers the whole interchange from initial awareness of your offering through the consideration, purchase, use and loyalty stages. There are many, many touchpoints between you and your customer on this journey, and you can innovate to create an outstanding experience for your customer, to make you stand out and have the customer return and share.
ThinkCube is one tool used for generating ideas in a playful way.
The process works best for groups:
- Define your goal for your brainstorming session.
- Stimulate your mind by drawing six random cards from the Idea pack.
- Think about your problem by combining two or more of the cards you drew to help come up with new ideas.
- Evaluate your ideas once you’ve come up with a number of them.
- Elaborate on the idea if you think it has merit or is a winner.
- Incubate those ideas that show potential but have some sticking points. Incubating is more along the lines of just letting the ideas percolate in the back of your mind while you’re going about doing other things.
Above all, make the process loads of fun. If you can hear laughter you are on the right track.
Add to this process, persistence, persistence, persistence, to get your creative innovation into practice and you are there.
Once you let the inner child out, wasn’t really so hard, was it?
Innovation is made more difficult if you are stuck in context. It’s easy to be stuck in context because we humans love patterns. Innovation requires breaking outside patterns. To cleanse yourself of patterns and context, clear away to nothing, and play is a great way to do this. Don’t depend on facts either, because a lot of things people thought were true yesterday are no longer so. The earth is not flat, the sun doesn’t circle the Earth, the speed of light is not constant, we don’t use just 10% of our brains, and most diets have been proved ineffectual. Did Einstein become famous for incrementally building on scientific knowledge of his time? No, he chucked away most of those ‘facts” and built on what he could prove.
Your current success can be a killer of innovation. When I contracted with PriceWaterhouse we had a term for what drove sales, it was “Change Drivers.” In other words, we looked for signs that a business in one of our chosen market segments had a problem and was ready to listen.
What’s my latest innovation idea?
You use your phone to order your favourite meal for home delivery and the restaurant sends its small helicopter drone to your GPS coordinates with the food package. Or you need some medicine so you send your private drone to the Apotik to pick it up. You read it here first!
** (These observations are from a book called “Think Naked: Childlike Brilliance in the Rough Adult World” by Peter Lloyd Marco Marsan. )
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