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February 21, 2020

How innovation can grow your start-up

by Louise Cunnah posted in Quick Tips.

Ayoa | How innovation can grow your start-up
‘Innovation’ can be defined as the simple introduction of ‘something new’, such as a fresh idea or an improvement to a process. Sometimes, it can be as straight-forward as taking an existing idea and executing this in a new way, making it an invaluable tool for start-ups that want to stand out in a sea full of already established and successful businesses.

It’s a known fact that it’s rarely smooth sailing for start-up owners, with around 90% of their new businesses failing – and 10% of those doing so within their first year. With this happening to so many companies before they leave the start-up phase (at five years old), how can you use innovation to grow your start-up and ensure it’s a success?

It’s simple. In a world that’s full of businesses vying to succeed (with more competition emerging each and every day), you need to stand out from the ever-growing crowd. You may have heard that every great idea has already been thought of, and while this rings true, what is important is how you execute it. How can you spin your idea in a new way?

Apple is a prime example of a business that is using innovative thinking to get ahead. Just think of a company that’s leading the way in innovation, and Apple are probably one of the first to enter your mind. But although we all know someone with an iPhone these days, it was the release of the first iMac back in 1998 that really helped to launch Apple’s success, shortly after Steve Jobs rejoined the company as its CEO.

Before the iMac hit the market, Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy. But, in a classic ‘rags to riches’ story, they managed to triple their quarterly earnings less than a year after the product’s release – and the rest, as they say, is history.

At the time, home computers weren’t necessarily a new thing. In 1996, Sony (who were already manufacturing computers in Japan) first entered the global market with the release of the VAIO laptop. A year before that, IBM had also introduced a laptop to the market – the ThinkPad 701C.

However, when the iMac first burst onto the scene with its stylish translucent blue shell (during a time when home computers were blocky and less pleasing on the eye), Apple redefined itself as a company that cared as much about the look of its products as it did the way they worked. This is what spoke to consumers as Apple had found a gap in the market.

Though it is now many years later, and countless new inventions have been born, there are still many ways businesses can harness innovation. Here are some of the ways your start-up can be innovative from the very beginning – and stay that way…

Take an existing idea – and make it better

When it comes to getting your start-up off the ground, your initial idea (or reason for existing in the market) can be your make or break. The more innovative the concept or execution, the bigger the chance of succeeding where so many others have failed before you.

As Apple and many others demonstrate, innovation is often achieved by taking an existing idea and making it better. Innovative thinkers are able to see the flaws in their competition or identify possible pain points for their customers and determine how to overcome these themselves.

Let’s take Netflix, for example. Now one of the biggest video streaming platforms in the world, they started out by shipping DVDs to customers in their homes. During this time, their competitors (including Blockbuster) were physical stores you had to visit – and customers were hit with a fee if they returned their videos late.

So, what did they do differently? Netflix’s Founder and CEO, Reed Hastings, abolished the late fees that annoyed so many customers and made the service more convenient by removing the need for them to leave their homes. Plus, by mailing DVDs to customers, Netflix also lowered its costs by getting rid of the need for brick-and-mortar stores.

We all know how this story ends. Blockbuster is now just a memory, and Netflix now has around 158.3 million subscribers globally (as of 2019).

What can you learn from this in your quest to be innovative? Research your competition. Ask yourself “what are they doing well?” and “what are they doing not-so-well?” Put yourself into the mind of the customer and think about what would make your product or service better for them. Then consider whether you, as a business, are able to deliver this.

You could even look at reviews being left by customers on public online forums such as social media platforms (for example, Twitter and Facebook) and review sites (such as TrustPilot, Yelp, and TripAdvisor). This will enable you to gain some valuable insight into what’s currently on the market and how well it’s meeting consumer needs.

Brainstorm the right way

You probably already know that brainstorming is a powerful weapon for helping you to generate fresh and exciting ideas that really make an impact. However, although you may be tempted to do this on your own, don’t shy away from getting as many people as possible from the business involved in brainstorming sessions. Two (or even three, or four…) heads are better than one, after all – and employees from all areas can look at things from perspectives that you may never have considered before.

When it comes to brainstorming sessions, run these in different ways to utilize everyone’s full creative thinking power. As an example, instead of thinking of ways to provide great customer service, task participants with reversing the problem and instead asking “what could cause you to provide awful customer service?”

Once you have brainstormed solutions to the reversed problem, flip these around to see if you can find positive ways of solving your original problem or challenge.

Don’t reject any idea at this stage – the more ideas you have to play with, the better. For every bad idea, there are even more good ones. Put every thought into a Mind Map, no matter how silly, impractical or crazy they might seem. With Mind Maps encouraging the brain to make associations between ideas, this may just lead to that lightbulb moment you were striving for.

Build a workplace culture of innovation

Innovation should be strived for in every area of your business, starting from the ground up. Unsurprisingly, a big part of this is how you manage your employees. A business would be nothing without the people behind it – but if you don’t give your workers the freedom to do their best work, how can you expect your company to be truly innovative?

As a start-up, you may not have that many employees (if any) to offer these perks to just yet. However, by building a culture of innovation from the get-go, you will not just attract the right people, but ensure that they will invest in your business, and stick around to watch it grow to fruition.

In terms of working styles, the most important thing to remember is that not everyone is at their most productive at the same time. You may arrive at your desk, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 8:00 am, ready and raring to go; others may get their best ideas a couple of hours later (after they’ve had a bit of a lie-in). So, by working flexibly, and offering this to your current or future employees, you can generate a better output of work – and thus, more innovative ideas.

In fact, a study from the Flex+Strategy Group (FSG) discovered that 45% of those surveyed felt that flexibility improved how they communicate with work colleagues, as well as create and innovate.

Similarly, your working environment also plays a big part in your productivity and creativity. A rather huge one, in fact. Not everyone gets their best ideas when they’re constrained to a desk in a silent office. That’s why those big sparks of inspiration often come to us when we’re doing something other than focusing fully on the task at hand – such as listening to music on the train home from work, taking a walk in the park, or brushing our teeth.

Woman working on laptop in front of window

The importance of having these ‘brain breaks’ (where you walk away from the task at hand and do something else) should never be underestimated. If you work tirelessly on something without a break, you’ll soon run out of creative fuel. Not only that, but the best plans and ideas need time to ‘incubate’. Research by the University of Sydney found that when groups of people were given a break when completing an exercise, they generated more ideas than the group that did not have a break.

By giving your workforce the power to work from wherever they want, or by making them feel comfortable enough to get up from their desks and stretch their legs when they need a spark of inspiration, you can help everyone feel more inspired.

Ready to grow your start-up with innovation? Ayoa’s Mind Mapping tools will give you the power to utilize your creativity, helping you to unleash your greatest ideas. When these are ready to be put into action, you can turn them into tasks – then add Due Dates, Reminders and more to keep you on track. Try Ayoa for free today – and start turning your ideas into reality.

Louise Cunnah

Louise Cunnah has always had a passion for the written word, leading to her studying English, Media and Journalism at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Since graduating in 2014, she has held a number of different roles in marketing, both agency-side and in-house for brands like Ayoa. She loves taking on a challenge and has written content on a diverse range of subjects over the years, including horticulture, business management, telecommunications, health and safety, productivity, neurodiversity, and personal finance (to name but a few!).

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