Planning innovation

Some innovative ideas may just come to you out of the blue. However, you should ideally have:

1. Innovation as part of your business strategy

2. A strategic vision of how you want your business to develop – if you dedicate your time to monitoring trends in your business sector, you can then focus your innovative efforts on the most important areas.

Innovation will not only improve the chances of your business surviving, but also help it to thrive and drive increased profits. There are lots of practical ways of assessing whether your ideas have profit potential:

Assess the competition

Find out who your competitors are and where they operate. Use the Internet and advertising sources such as the Yellow Pages to find out about their products, prices and operating culture. This can give you an overview of their selling points, as well as any areas you might be able to exploit.

Study market or industry trends

Awareness of the climate in which your business is operating will help you to plan.

You can find a lot of information about your industry on the Internet. Business and trade magazines will also feature useful articles.

Build a relationship with your customers

It’s not enough simply to know who your customer base is. You need to communicate effectively with them as well.

Communication involves not only listening to their needs but also actively observing their behaviour around current products and services and generating ideas on how you can make improvements.

Involve your suppliers and other business partners

Pooling your resources with your suppliers or other business partners will help to produce and develop creative ideas. Potential partnerships can also be developed through business networking opportunities.

Next, consider what taking a particular innovative step could mean for your business. Ask yourself:

1. What impact it will have on your business processes and practices

2. What extra training your staff may require

3. What extra resources you may need

4. How you’ll finance the work

3. Whether you’ll be creating any intellectual property that will need protecting

Finally, you should include your vision in your business plan by:

1. Putting down your goals, both long and short term and detailing how you intend to achieve them

2. Linking goals to financial targets, such as achieving a specific turnover by a set date

3. Reviewing your plan regularly