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FAQ about Innovation and Creativity in Business


The Innovation Solution Center TM What's the difference between creativity and innovation?
Creativity is a mental process of thinking up new ideas. Innovation is the application of those ideas to products, services and systems.

What is innovation?
Innovation is the application of ideas to products, services and systems that can be applied to real world situations. Innovations have 'deliverables' that can be protected by copyrights, patents, trademarks and licenses. Ideas are not protected. Products and innovations can be marketed and protected.

How does innovation lead to better ROI (Return on Investment)?
Novelty is a very strong motivational factor in the human experience. Change happens. Innovation responds to new opportunities and needs with new twists that better solve the problem felt by a specific target market. Shoppers love to compare their options to get the best value, and innovation differentiates you from your competition. Smart innovation reduces the cost of each product you bring to market because research identifies the need, the distribution system, and the goal of your prospects, evaluation helps you select the best product for your situation, and when you also apply innovation to the launch of the product, you reach the best prospects with the best message for them. Innovation can result in a lower cost product, lower cost promotion and more sales.

Who in our organization is best suited to 'do' innovation?
Continual innovation is everyone's job. Innovation in service can be applied in adding a smile or a pertinent question to prospects. Innovation in in-house products can be a better intake form for new clients. Continual innovation is seen in updates, revisions, generations, and radical new approaches such as the Internet, space travel, and prepackaged kits of food. It is true, however, that some people are more sensitive to observing customers and prospects, trends and technologies that can be applied to new solutions. These people can be found in any part of an organization -- sales, reception, shipping, or service--as well as product design or engineering. The key characteristics for innovation success are contact with your public, curiosity and imagination.

Do we need a CIO (Chief Innovation Officer)?
Every entrepreneur is the CIO for their small business! No one can listen better, or synthesize input from the market better than the person who holds the vision. However, stress and overwork seriously limit creativity and innovation. It is important that the entrepreneur encourage and systematize the innovation process and include a diverse group of people in the ideation process. Innovation is about a renaissance -- a clash of new ideas, new goals, new technologies, new opportunities. Diversity reigns!

Are there some proven processes for successful innovation to avoid rambling, non-productive brainstorming?
Yes and no. Innovation is a new and changing applied science. Some techniques such as brainstorming, lateral thinking, skunk works and creativity exercises are useful. None of these techniques fit every situation. An Active Innovation Management system is a personalized approach to applying practical innovation to your business on a continual basis. It is a mindset more than a rigid technique, so it can grow and change just like natural selection evolves in the world of nature.

How do I protect my ideas?
First, be careful who you share them with. Take the necessary steps to qualify for legal protection. Then nail them down with one or more of the methods of intellectual property that provide limited production. There are additional techniques such as trade secrets (think Bush Beans--tell no one, no how!) and licensing your copyrighted, patented or trademarked products.

How do I know if a product will be successful?
Nothing in life is guaranteed--however, we learn what works and what doesn't through experience and the synthesis of experience by others. The most successful innovations are a renaissance -- a synthesis -- of several realities: identifying a real need or goal, a definite niche market that you can reach, and a simple, breakthrough solution that people recognize quickly. Making an innovation successful takes another level of innovation in marketing and distribution. When you put all these factors into your in-house system of product/service development, you have the greatest assurance of success that will add value to your company--and your bank account.

What are the hot areas for innovation in 2004?
Every field has its own evolving technologies, systems, consumer trends and production methodologies. Continuing trends include Internet communications and commerce, globalization and multi-culturalism, and the aging Baby Boom population bubble. Another trend is the growing young population around the world. You can check many research sources such as industry trade associations to identify the trends in your industry.

What is a system for innovation?
The Active Innovation Management system provides guidelines and best practices for generating ideas, evaluating them, designing them to meet consumer preferences, producing them and launching them effectively. Carolyn Allen has simplified this system to fit the needs of small businesses and self-employed creatives and consultants. See her website, www.Sunshine for more information about workshops, a workbook and related tools to help you develop a personalized system to add intellectual properties to your company's value.

What is different between innovation for small business and large business?
Small business has historically been more creative than large business because of the indomitable spirit of the entrepreneur. The scale of research differs. The variety of customizable services vary. Small businesses are faster to market and more adaptable to meet evolving trends. Small businesses tend to create smaller, more practical systems because of their limited people power, however their features can be more robust because of ongoing innovation.

Large companies excel at distribution. Small businesses have learned that they can maximize their profitability by focusing on innovation and licensing or selling their innovations to large corporations for production and development. The best of both worlds is available with Active Innovation Management.