Innovation in 7 days & $0 cash

Brand + Business x Christine Moody* 

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Everyone seems to be talking about ‘Innovation‘. Australia even has a policy—and dedicated website—around innovation and the ‘Ideas Boom‘.

Professional Australian organisations are also talking about innovation. For example the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) current edition of Company Director magazine features an article titled: ‘Embedding Innovation’.

If you have been in business for any length of time you know that innovation is not new, but it is crucial to business survival.

There are many examples of successful companies with a history of innovating. Star-brands such as Apple and Nike have strategic plans around innovation because they understand it is central to their brand differentiation and survival in a highly competitive and fast-changing market. Unlike the current hype around innovation in Australia, organisations like Apple and Nike, Just Do It! They embed the processes in the organisation and make it part of the brand’s DNA and therefore their strategy.

If you have been in business for any length of time you know that innovation is not new, but it is crucial to business survival.

It’s no accident that organisations with innovative policies are more successful or that innovation is part of their way of doing business. In my experience, embedding innovation needs to start with the CEO and Board. They need to understand what innovation is and how to apply it in the commercial sense.

“We need to identify what we mean by innovation because most people seem to think that it is about product or service innovation. Increasingly, innovation is moving to various forms of intangibles—and not just patents, copyright and trademarks. A new business model, for example, is extraordinarily innovative. Going digital is innovative. So the first thing to look at is what is meant my innovation and extending this Board’s horizon,” says Neville Christie, CEO New Enterprise Services (as quoted in the AICD article referred to earlier).

We need to identify what we mean by innovation because most people seem to think that it is about product or service innovation.

I have been going to countless private, public, and education forums, seminars and workshops around innovation. I am noticing one thing: we are hearing about innovation, we are reading about innovation, but what are we doing about innovation? It feels like everyone in Australia is talking about innovation, but very few people are doing something. I want to see some action and some results.

Innovation to me means new ideas and new ways of doing old things. It is about connecting the dots. I reckon that coming up with ideas is the easy bit. The hard bit is executing it! We aren’t seeing a lot of this, and I wonder if we are all a little bit scared?

Any innovative idea is scary because you have to put yourself ‘out there’ and talk to people who may not ‘get it’. You have to address your fear of failure. I know I am onto a new idea when I get the blank ‘eye glaze’ from people when I am in the early stages of development. For me, this is a litmus test for innovation. If someone gets your idea and you don’t have to explain it much, then it is too safe and not innovative.

To progress an innovative idea, you need to translate it into a prototype quickly. This ‘proof of concept’ stage is scary, but its important so that you can ‘show and tell’ and get valuable feedback.

Fast track innovation with an inexpensive prototyping kit

I developed a quick ‘idea to prototype’ strategy after a trip to Stanford University’s d.School. In July 2011, I returned from their one-week intensive at Executive Education ‘Design Thinking’ Bootcamp. I realised I had to prove that the process we were immersed in actually worked in practice. So on the way home from the airport, I dropped into an office supply shop to collect items for a prototyping kit.

What I selected for my kit looked more like items you would purchase for a kids party. (In fact, I was asked at the checkout if I was having a kids’ party!)

My kit included brightly coloured pipe cleaners, post-it notes, pens, pencils, paper, cardboard and ice block sticks—just like the stuff you see at kindergartens! The idea is to use these inexpensive items to create a rough prototype that you can see and touch. It helps to explain your idea to others and test the idea with your users, iterate, and then test again. It is an important step in the ‘design thinking’ process because it enables you to quickly create inexpensive prototypes before you develop the final designs, create detailed drawings, and order samples etc.

I gave myself seven days to complete my prototype with no significant expenditure. The result was an idea for ‘Poppy Cakes—A Party in a Box’, which went on to win Business Review Weekly’s ‘Best Creative Business Idea’.

My innovative idea took less than one week and no money to create—except for stocking my prototyping kit, which I could continue to use to brainstorm a range of new ideas.

The idea behind it was an observation—via social media and talking with customers—that a cake may be central to a celebration, but it is stressful organising the party and gathering the other items such as cups, plates, serviettes, tablecloth, and candles. ‘Party in a Box’ arrives at your door with the cake and everything you need. An added bonus is that it is 100% recyclable, which means rubbish can go back in the box and into the recycle bin at the end of the party.

I would love to hear what processes your organisation uses for developing new ideas and stories of successful innovative ideas that have been created and launched!

*Christine Moody is one of Australia’s leading brand strategists and the founder brand management consultancy, Brand Audits. With more than 30 years’ professional experience, Christine has helped a diverse client base of local and international brands, including Gold Coast City Council, Hilton Hotels, and Wrigleys USA, to develop, protect and achieve brand differentiation. Her particular interest is personal brand audits to assist executives realise their full potential.

For more information: chris.moody@brandaudits.com.au or +61 419 888 468.

Photo credit: Poppy Cakes ombre-layered cake.

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