A while back Time Magazine ran a story on an innovation incubator and showed photographs of some of the “innovations”. The type of thing they were excited about was some new apps for cellphones that recorded daily tasks and calories and a small yellow rubber duck with a motorised unit to speed around your bath. Now, it’s important to encourage new ideas but let’s be honest, some things are simple, practical ideas while others are merely gimmicks and novelties.
Gimmicks remind me of these corporate gifts such as a battery or solar powered torch with different tools including a knife, scissors and a star screwdriver. The problem is that when you take it out for the first time to wander around the dark in your home because of another blackout, the torch packs in for good. It’s not to say that all corporate novelty gifts are rubbish. Someone some time back gave me a small electric-powered torch that you can plug into the wall and charge. The length of time that this torch lasts is amazing and it gives you fairly good light in the on-off blackouts.
Then there are the real, simple, smart products. I’m thinking of a double-insulated metal water bottle which comes in a stylish design and different colours. It avoids the problem of using plastic bottles for water and is great for hiking and other outdoor activities. This water bottle must have something going for it – at last count the woman who came up with the idea had sold four million units. Another simple and useful product is the surf wear line for women that a Swede came up with on a surfing safari in Costa Rica. Her product solves a real problem for women surfers. She found that the women swimwear she used while surfing kept falling off while out there in the surf riding big waves. So, she decided to come up with her own woman’s surf wear line and has done well.
Right here in South Africa innovation-minded people have come up with useful, simple new ideas such as the seed-on-a-reel product that makes planting seeds easy and accurate, a lotion that relieves bluebottle and insect stings and a special tailgate step ladder that is useful for stepping onto pickups (bakkies or 4×4’s) for household repairers and boulders.
All I’m saying is that gimmicks are fine if you want a novelty that will catch people’s attention. But if you want to reach a larger market, you need to have something that is practical, simple and smart and doesn’t break up into pieces the first time you use it.
Coming up with a bit breakthrough ideas for products and services need not be complicated. You can find solutions to the process of “Breakthrough Ideas”. A real simple and practical system shows you step-by-step how you can go for a breakthrough, a breakthrough in your life, by following proven methods.
A standing joke of an optimist is someone who believes that they won’t encounter a pothole on their way to work, will find their electricity on in the morning, running water from their taps, have mail delivered, experience a drop in energy prices and not get robbed at their home or their car hijacked and stolen.
Creative living requires responding to life’s challenges. Blackouts have provided opportunities. Last Christmas new types of gifts appeared in Father Christmas stockings such as battery-powered torches and lights, LED reading lamps and butane and propane gas cylinders for boiling hot water. Outdoor and camping stores have many blackout survival tools these days. Not to mention the investment in generators and renewables for residents and business. Continue reading “Creative approaches necessary for solving everyday challenges”
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. Continue reading “How do you overcome the bias and prejudice against creativity and novelty?”
I recently met with someone I know and asked him how do you handle making tough decisions. He said he’s had to make hard decisions often and it’s never easy. One time he had to do an organisation and methods study while working for an organisation. The conclusion or recommendations in his report required that about hundred and 25 employees had to be retrenched. It wasn’t easy for him. So he decided to tear up the report, throw it in the waste paper bin and handed in his resignation. Continue reading “Hard times, hard decisions”
A business adviser tells a story that a company was deciding whether or not to invest in a new product but had been mulling over the idea for some years. The business adviser used estimates for the best-case-scenario revenue impact. He found out the following information – the percentage of the existing customer base that would be prospective buyers of the new product, what percentage would realistically buy, and what would be the maximum price that could be realistically charged? He came up with a best-case-scenario estimate and when the business owner saw the figure decided it wasn’t worth the headache with such small revenue. “We killed the idea on the spot and ended a three-year debate in just 10 minutes.” Continue reading “How do you decide whether to invest in a new product or not?”
While on holiday in the southern peninsula of Cape Town I was told that the metro or municipality is no longer collecting kelp or seaweed from the beaches. For many years the practice on Cape Town beaches was to use tractors with trailers, collect the kelp that had washed up in the storms and take them off the beach. It seems like the seaweed was used in kelp processing and fertiliser operations. Now apparently the City no longer collects the seaweed because environmentalists have found that the seaweed or kelp helps to propagate a host of marine organisms and life on the edges of the coastline. Continue reading “It’s not always new ideas that are winners, old ideas can be powerful too”
When you mention the word creativity in conservative circles you may feel ashamed like it’s some sort of dirty word. Creativity is smothered or kept safely under lock and key in command and control organisations and institutions. Why? Perhaps because the new, the novel and different is scary to the traditionalists. Like oil and water creativity and business aren’t supposed to mix.
Start-up businesses differ from existing, established small businesses in that they are still in search of a sustainable business model. This means that a start-up owner has to deal with inevitable failure because not every business model they try out is going to succeed overnight.
One commentator recently said that experts say if a start-up is going to fail, there are two options – it needs to fail fast or learn faster. This may sound cruel or harsh but really all it is saying is that a business needs to learn faster by pivoting, a concept from the lean start-up movement. The business really needs to redesign or change its product or service and go into a different direction where there are better opportunities. Continue reading “How does a start-up owner deal with failure?”
Change is accelerating in this recession. People you know who had rock-solid jobs are losing them. Small businesses that were thriving five years ago have gone to the wall. New ideas and concepts that looked like winners ended up duds.
Yet entrepreneurs, some of them at least, keep coming back with new concepts they believe will work. Like a new hamburger outlet, an eco-car wash and new ways to farm fish including Kabeljou.
At times small business people get into crisis circumstances. Things look so bad that they believe the world has come to an end. Fear and depression can lead to fatal consequences. Continue reading “How to deal with a crisis”
If you think you’ll get your best ideas from standing in the shower think again. You might be lucky to receive a sudden flash of inspiration in the shower but most of these ideas are unlikely to be strong enough to launch a viable business.
The reason is simply that such “pure thought” will probably not be bounded in the reality of the marketplace. Sure, if you suddenly combined two concepts or objects that you had found in the marketplace, then your idea may hold promise. There are always exceptions to any general rule. Continue reading “Where do good ideas come from?”