to manage businesses often comes as a necessity to make money and survive, not necessarily to solve problems. This is the reason why many businesses can’t stand out in the market. Yes, they may be profitable, but they have not done anything spectacular to set them apart from similar businesses. Although businesses in few African countries like South Africa, Kenya etc stand out in creatively domesticating technology in solving local problems, yet not many companies in Africa are known to have done something truly innovative in business.
In Nigeria, though the spirit and energy to do business is there, many businesses in the country are yet to be known with any particular innovative feature in their products. I often ask people to name any Nigerian company with innovative products, features or even production process; hardly will I get up to five names. There is no doubt some may have innovations that are not known to the public, but that is a disadvantage because your innovation should reflect in your business activities as a competitive advantage in the market. If your innovation is not giving you an advantage in the market, you haven’t created something innovative yet.
Here are a few things to help you gain fresh innovative ideas into your business.
Understanding innovation as it relates to your business is very important. No two businesses have exactly the same understanding of why they are in business, same goes for innovation. The way we define innovation, affects how we innovate in business. Poor understanding of innovation affects how you manage your business as well as how you execute your strategies. If your understanding of innovation is that of a ‘new product’ only, then, you have left out so many things that may require new initiatives such as delivery, processes and even pricing. To get new inspirations about where innovation is needed in your business, you need to review what you already know about innovation and your business by taking a broader and better look at innovation. Redefining innovation in your business helps you gain inspiration on where to effect changes.
Look beyond your industry for inspiration:
There is something I love about our music industry in Nigeria; it is the fusion of all genres of music to create new ones. Today, we have musicians mixing Afrobeat with Hip hop; reggae with highlife etc and new type of music that has become accepted in the society is born. As a business owner, you don’t need to rely on the activities going on in your industry only to get inspiration. It is necessary to step out, find out what those who are not in the same industry or those who are not in competition with you are doing. Observing what is done outside your market, and introducing something similar into your business, can open a new opportunity for your business.
Break an existing pattern:
Another great way to get inspiration for innovation is to break an existing pattern or trend. Many businesses work in patterns. There is a laid down rule on how everything must be done. That is not always the best. If something has always been done in a particular way, maybe it’s time to try another method. Having a mindset of ‘this is how it is done’ kills new ideas. What if that method is wrong or there is a better method of achieving same or better result? Dealing with this old thoughts, opens up a new way to do business. That the old method is working now doesn’t guarantee you will always succeed with it. Sometimes, you need to fix it before it gets broken – that is how to be proactive. Don’t wait to be disappointed before you think of a new way to get things done in your business.
Creating an innovative feature in business is not rocket science. Although sometimes it may require capital, but other times, there are little things you already have the capacity to do that can be changed to explore new ideas.