Think back to the last time you came up with a really great idea. If you are like many of us, I’m willing to bet that you were in a relaxed setting and told a friend or co-worker about it and then moved on. It wasn’t until months later when the idea sprang into your head again that you realized you hadn’t done anything about it.
This scenario is all too common, especially in the life of a time-strapped entrepreneur. To make sure you and your team's best innovative ideas get implemented, you have to manage them–like any other aspect of your business.
Here are five ways to capture your innovations and put them into practice:
Get down to basics. Innovation doesn’t have to be rocket science. Ken Tencer, CEO of Sypderworks, a brand management firm in Toronto, offers the example of fledging cantaloupe sales at grocery stores. It wasn’t until stores came up with the idea of chopping up melons and packaging them in plastic containers that sales saw an increase.
He recommends sitting down with your team to discuss basic things that give you or your client problems. Keep spitballing until you come up with something that sticks. Tencer recently did this in his own organization when looking for new talent. Instead of spending thousands on hiring a recruiting agency, he put up an ad on LinkedIn and, for less than $300, found several viable candidates.
“Of course I had to vet them, but it was worth it to me and that was an innovation that helped my company internally,” he notes.
Schedule a recurring meeting. Every other week, a cross-divisional team at Popcorn, Indiana, an Englewood, N.J.-based ready-made popcorn provider, meets to brainstorm new ideas and discuss changes in the marketplace. The gathering is labeled
"Innovation Thursday." At the end, a subset group breaks off to distill ideas, prototype products and then presents them at the next meeting.
The process works and the company is growing rapidly. According to CEO Hitesh Hajarnavis, since the company’s founding in 2006, it has captured around 10 percent market share and boasts revenues north of $50 million.
“I attribute these numbers to our institutionalized culture of innovation,” he says.
At an Innovation Thursday meeting in summer 2010, the team discussed how to spruce up its holiday product. The addition to chocolate was brought up and six weeks later the company was ready to market its new chocolate drizzled popcorn.
“We really rocked that one; it sold out almost immediately,” beams Hajarnavis, adding that the company now offers the variety from October through March.