It’s all very well you saying innovate but how do I do it?

Good question; here are some ways.

As an entrepreneur you already have multiple new ideas every day; we all do. But you have probably got used to suppressing them: if you followed every new idea and shiny object you’d get nothing done. But what happens to those ideas? Are they just forgotten?

Start, instead, to write them down and add them to an ‘Ideas’ file. Then periodically or when you are struggling to come up with a solution to a problem dig out the file and run through it. One of those ideas might just be the one you are looking for. Ideas are formed in our unconscious ( and sometimes appear as dreams) but not always at the exact time we need them. Often our unconscious is ahead of us in its thinking. Don’t waste a good idea because you’re not ready to use it yet.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating, that failure is just a precursor to success. Think about it: what are the chances that you’ll hit on exactly the right formula of functionality, benefits, price and distribution channel first time around. Pretty remote probably. So isn’t the obvious solution to try different things and test which one works best until you hit on the optimum formula?

My business partner, Sarah, is the best person I’ve worked with at doing this. When we launched My VA Business, growth was slow, but she was unswerving in her ability to try and test new marketing pillars, different business models and pricing until she cracked the rhythmic acquisition of members.

Think about the last time you identified a problem your customers were having and came up with and implemented an idea to solve it. Or just ask ‘Could there be a better way?’ Most innovation starts this way. A small idea grows as you explore the possibilities. It’s rare to find that a fully-formed solution to a hitherto unsolved problem just comes to us. Innovation is a process. A failed solution to one problem turns out to be the answer to another.

Create an innovation laboratory, not one with test tubes and men (or women) in white coats, but an environment, with others, where you deliberately stack the odds against your current product, service or solution and have to find another way. Say, for example, a pandemic means that your customers can’t visit your bricks and mortar shop (not a very likely scenario, I know) and you have to find an alternative way of satisfying their demand. What are your options? Get your team to come up with the most ridiculous scenarios they can think of and then brainstorm possible solutions.

Innovation is rarely about a ‘lightbulb moment’ but it does require some quality thinking; make time for that in 2021.

Noel Guilford, Principal at Guilford Accounting
Noel Guilford is the principal of Guilford Accounting a small business accountancy practice specialising in advising owner-managed businesses on current accounting, finance, and tax matters. You can reach him via email at noel@guilfordaccounting.co.uk or by phone at 01244 660866. He is the author of the 'Figure it out - an entrepreneurs guide to understanding your business numbers' which you can obtain by visiting guilfordaccounting.co.uk.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ His latest book, How to Build a Successful Business' will be published in 2018.

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