Three Ways to Grow Demand Through Customer-Driven Innovation

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Failure to innovate and/or meet customer demands is the sixth biggest fear in the ten top issues keeping US business leaders awake at night.

Innovation isn’t just about brainstorming new ideas stresses Ira Kalb, professor of the Marshall School of Business USC and president of Kalb & Associates. He urges business leaders to create an innovation culture, whereby it’s the responsibility of managers to ensure their teams understand that innovation is a requirement of their job. He says: “Innovation should be woven into the fabric of the business and given a prominent place in job descriptions, procedures, and performance evaluation.”

As an experienced business strategist and executive coach, who has guided companies and their employees at home and abroad through the innovation process to strengthen their business and the business of their customers – ask yourself:

◾ Are you adapting to your customers changing needs and demands?

◾ Are you constantly being pro-active on their behalf?

◾ Are you supporting them with innovation and development?

My decades of expertise boosting the profitability of family run businesses has taught me that the three key requirements to successful innovation are:

1. Focus

◾ Set time aside on a regular basis to look for and develop new ideas and improvements.

◾ Involve a cross section of people from within the business in the innovation process.

◾ Use an experienced outside facilitator to enable you to achieve the most from your innovation session.

Talk to your customers as this adds a new dimension to your innovation process and often uncovers unexpected seams of great ideas.

2. The 90-Day Project

◾ If it isn’t achieved in 90 days it’s not going to happen so its 90 days or bust!

◾ Go for a 90% ready product or idea and test market it. Too often companies waste valuable business opportunity and first mover advantage working to achieve perfection.

◾ Beta versions and test market will provide you with a wealth of information and ideas that will prevent costly mistakes later.

3. Expectations

◾ Don’t expect success every time – accept the set-backs – they happen to the best of us.

◾ Be objective and always aim to learn lessons – even if they are painful.

◾ Don’t play the ‘name and blame’ game it gets you nowhere.

◾ It may just be a case of bad timing so, don’t throw anything away.

And, remember, innovation doesn’t have to involve developing new products. Simple or small modifications to your standard product or procedures may make a huge difference to the customer: it could be something as simple as painting or packaging the product in their colours or adding their logo, or allowing them to make smaller orders more frequently to help them manage their cash flow, potentially with an annual volume incentive.

In the words of Thomas D Kuczmarski in Bloomsberg Business Week: “Memo to CEOs: Stop Blathering About Innovation and Do Something – because making it happen starts at the top.”

For help in increasing innovation and keeping up with customer demands, or to share your innovation success stories, leave a comment below, e-mail richard.bosworth@whatifspecialist.com, follow @richardwhatif on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn or post on www.whatifforums.com.

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