How hard is it to innovate? Not just once, but many times? How can you keep putting out great new products, services, or processes? Continuous innovation is hard, and if you keep doing things the same way, you will get less and less out of them. Try using some of these ideas to change the way you come up with new ideas.

  1. Follow the lead of someone else. Take a page out of another company’s book and apply what you learn to your own firm. It was Henry Ford who first used the assembly-line method to the vehicle business after observing its effectiveness in a meatpacking facility.
  2. Ask your clients. If you ask your customers how you could make your product or service better, they will give you a lot of ideas for small changes. Most of the time, they’ll ask for new features or for your product to be cheaper, faster, easier to use, come in more styles and colors, etc. Carefully listen to these requests and pick the ones that will really help.
  3. Instead of asking, observe. See how people utilize your items. New uses? Levi Strauss realized that buyers ripped jeans, so they introduced pre-torn jeans. Heinz realized consumers stored sauce jars upside down, so they made an upside-down bottle.
  4. Make use of issues and grievances. If clients are having problems with your product in any way, or if they file complaints, you have a good foundation for developing new features. Enhance your product’s usability by removing present difficulties and introducing new features to combat customer complaints.
  5. Combine. Make something fresh by combining your product with something else. It can be used at any level. Think of a luggage with wheels, or a phone with a camera, or a flight with a massage..
  6. Eliminate. What aspects of your product or service could you improve? There was no computer store for Dell, no bookstore for Amazon, and no speakers or record functions for the Sony Walkman.
  7. Ask around. Find new and better ways to satisfy clients, and challenge your employees to do the same. They have a front-row seat to the action and are well-positioned to spot new ideas. It’s common for them to just need a little extra push to come up with outstanding ideas.
  8. Plan. Include new product and service development goals in your business strategy. Include it in the final tally. Everyone’s goals should include a focus on innovation. It will happen if you measure it.
  9. Do some brainstorms. Encourage your team to hold regular brainstorming sessions in which they can produce a big number of new product concepts. A provocative outsider, such a customer or supplier, should be invited to participate in the discussion.
  10. Check out patents. Look up relevant patents in your area of expertise. Are there any that you could use as a basis for licensing? Then you can employ that strategy now that some are about to expire. Is there any way to get to the heart of the matter with a patent?
  11. Collaborate. Hire another organization that can take you to places that your current employer cannot. Choose a coworker who shares your values but has a different set of talents. Swatch and Mercedes collaborated to create the Smart vehicle.
  12. Decide if you want to minimize or increase. Minimize or maximize a regular practice in the industry. Ryanair reduced both the cost and the quality of the service. Starbucks made the most of both the pricing and the experience for its customers. Better to be unique than superior.
  13. Organize a drawing or other type of contest. Ask customers to come up with new product concepts. Give something away as a reward. People will come up with unique ideas if you give them a specific purpose to work toward. Innovativeness and public relations can benefit from this.
  14. Ask yourself, “What if…” and see where your imagination takes you. Push the limits of what you think is possible in your field. Once the regular limits are removed, you and your group will come up with incredible ideas.
  15. Keep an eye on your competition. Keep an eye on the competition, but don’t follow them blindly. If you can find a way to modify or license one of their concepts, or even buy the company, you’ll be ahead of the game.
  16. Outsource. Hire a design firm, university, start-up, or crowdsourcing service like NineSigma to handle your new product development challenge.
  17. Open innovation is the best way to go. Proctor & Gamble and Reckitt Benckiser, two of the world’s most well-known consumer products firms, support new product development. When it comes to intellectual property protection, they are open-minded and precise in their demands. The majority of their new goods are currently developed outside of the corporation.
  18. Repurpose a product by giving it a new purpose. Look find a completely new use for an existing product. In the early 1900s, De Beers created industrial diamonds, but they soon discovered a new application for diamonds: engagement rings. They gained access to a big new market.
  19. Rewind the clock. Investigate the procedures and services that were once common in your industry but are no longer. Is it possible to re-create one in a more recent iteration? Speed Dating has been compared to a Victorian dance format in which women were given cards with appointments on them.
  20. Get on social media. Twitter and Facebook groups are great places to get answers to your queries on current events and trends. Investigate consumer preferences and the next big thing to see if you can discover what they desire. Many early adopters are engaged in social network groups and are happy to answer questions and offer advice.

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*Originally published at Innovation Management

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