Sources of Ideas
First of all, earlier we have discussed how brainstorming sessions can be sources of ideas for the innovation process. However, where do the ideas that are brought out in the brainstorming session come from? One area is inside the company. Your fellow employees are often good sources of ideas for improvements in internal processes, products, service and customer contact. They are often the ones in the trenches who see the possible problems in the products, processes or services. Internal communications are critical to the effectiveness of this process.
Other sources of ideas come from customers
Knowledge of customers’ preferences is absolutely critical. Very few companies can innovate effectively without comprehensive knowledge of their customers’ needs and preferences. By some estimates, roughly 50% of all innovations come from customers. What are you doing to get close enough to your customers and ,therefore, tap them for ideas? This effort needs to be an on-going, real effort, not a quickie, one time shotgun blast. First, cultivate enough of a relationship that you have two-way communication flowing on a regular basis. Second, have programs in place that will encourage your customers to communicate with you about problems and successes.
You should encourage your customers to use you as a resource, even when you do not have what they need
When they ask for guidance on something they know you don’t offer, you have established effective communications. Take advantage of this relationship to help you both. Ask for feedback and constructive criticism. Ask for their ideas about what they and others will need in the future. Put these ideas through the same filters you put your own ideas through. While many will not be earthshaking, one or two might be the catalyst for the true winner down the road. Furthermore, effective listening can make a tremendous difference. Therefore, train your customer interface people to hear what your customers are saying, not just the words. Hence, your customers can provide sources of ideas.
Note: This post is the fourth in a series of posts from Dana Baldwin’s article Creating an Environment for Innovation. First, we discussed how atmosphere fostors innovation. Second, we discussed how internal communication encourages innovation. Third we discussed how challenges motivate innovation. The next post in this series will discuss how processes encourage innovation. Attend the Simplified Strategic Planning Seminar to learn more about this and other aspects of Simplified Strategic Planning.
M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright 2018 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attributionn this series will discuss how challenges can encourage innovation.