Creativity and novelty is applauded by some people and in certain fields but when it comes to the real world of small business creativity gets a bad rap. This is why as a small business it’s better to come up with something that is slightly more new or novel on the market than develop a product or service that is radically different. An old rule of thumb in investment circles says that you shouldn’t invest in something that is more than 15% different or new than is already available in the marketplace.
You see, the problem with creativity and novelty is the risk. Business people who need to constantly monitor, measure and manage risk have a bias and prejudice towards newness. The other thing is that if you look at the word creativity what it essentially means is creating something new which actually represents change. People, managers, small business owners get used to the status quo and are wary of the newness in things.
An article in the Atlantic came up with the example of how the iPhone was met with scepticism by experts in the industry as well as so-called cellphone experts writing for leading publications. What the article says is that experts such as teachers, scientists and executives are biased against new ways of thinking. Incremental improvements or change are revered compared to investments in new ideas. In some recent research, the researchers found that new ideas got the worst scores from experts in the subject. One of the researchers told the publication that “everyone dislikes novelty” and that “experts tend to be over critical of proposals in their own domain”.
For anyone who wants to come up with a new business idea, a different product or service this research is important because you need to manage for the hidden or otherwise bias and prejudice against creativity. So what you do? Let’s take a simple example such as pepper. Not too long ago the only paper that was prevalent was white ground pepper. Black pepper started to gain ground for salads and other dishes and was mainly dispensed through those old fashioned wooden pepper grinders, which, by the way, cost a fortune. Then the mass food producers started packaging pepper in plastic with a hard plastic pepper grinder at a much lower cost than the old long wooden varieties. Jump forward a few years later and you’ll be hard pressed to find white pepper at restaurants, hotels or even company canteens.
So you might say well where’s the innovation in that? Right so. What about the electric pepper grinder? Do you see any of those around? Yes, as you know, they are manufactured but not many people buy them. Why is this, you may ask? Because they cost more and people don’t see benefits of an electric pepper grinder when they can just use their hands to grind pepper for themselves.
That’s why there is often opportunity for a smaller company to come up with a radically new product that the giant corporations won’t touch. A small business can serve a small niche profitably. The only challenge is that you need to have clear benefits for the potential customer in buying your new product or service. Without clever sales and advertising, you’re probably just sit with a garage full of unwanted stock. Selling something as an improvement or with a twist can help.