This month I’m planting some seeds about innovation that will pay off big for you in 2017.  I frequently hear a lot of outdated beliefs at speaking events about what innovation is really all about, so let’s tackle some of those innovation myths and get them out of the way.

Innovation Myth #1:  Innovation is time-consuming, expensive, and risky. 

Invention and innovation are two different things.  Invention produced the Segway after years of big money and a huge team of engineers– a cool idea that was supposed to change the world but has sold a fraction of the units originally forecasted, and only in niche markets. The Segway was an invention focused on functional enhancements that did not serve any real market need.

Car-share services, such as Zipcar, are innovation.  Nobody reinvented the car – these firms realized that customers were looking for a different way to use a car.  They wanted to buy transportation, not a vehicle.  Innovation saves time, saves money, solves a real problem, creates a feel good, and provides peace of mind – innovation is “warm” more often than its “cool”.

Innovation Myth #2: Hit it Out of the Ballpark Innovation is the Best Source of Competitive Advantage

Doing 100 small things that add value for your customers is lower risk, lower cost and creates innovation that’s more immediately commercially viable than looking for the next big thing.   A new car-share service in Vancouver gets that.  They’ve “innovated” by understanding the Vancouver lifestyle and equipping their “seats 5” vehicles with bicycle and ski racks – a big competitive advantage over one of the other “seats 2 with no trunk space” competitors whose innovation was aimed at solving the problem of tight urban parking spots.  They’ve solved a real challenge that prevented outdoorsy drivers from embracing the car share model.  Simple.  Effective.  Successful.

Innovation Myth #3:  Employees Must be Incented to Come Up With Good Ideas

Ugh – the “Suggestion Box.”  Ugh – “Think Outside the Box, People.”  The weird, wonderful, or well-intentioned ideas that result from these outdated approaches are rarely innovative.  And incentive programs tend to be unwieldy and ineffective by the time the ideas are evaluated by a committee for implementation or compensation purposes.  Yet people are born problem-solvers.  Turn them loose on a real problem that your customers have identified, and you’ll find they’re already motivated to innovate.  Download this complimentary series of training videos to learn exactly what information you need to learn about your customers to inspire your employees to get busy spotting innovation opportunities.

Takeaway

The bottom line is that innovation is often easier than we think once we understand many innovation myths are just that: myths.  It’s a matter of understanding the problem or need that your product or service is being “hired” to help with, and then doing it better than anyone else in the market, whether creating better products or creating a better experience.  Focusing on the experience is often the fastest path to the cash – lower risk, lower cost commercial success that doesn’t require a hit-it-out-of-the-ballpark win. Don’t let innovation myths prevent you from finding your next big thing!

#1 Bestselling Author, International Speaker, and Accelerator Anne C. Graham is on a mission to help 5 million business leaders and their teams double their profit per employee – or more – in less than one year, in less time per week than they’re spending on email per day. Her new book Profit in Plain Sight includes the 5-step proactive P.R.O.F.I+T Plan to do it.  Connect with Anne on Twitter and LinkedIn.