How to innovate new ideas & products

4 years ago

Mark Pearson (Entrepreneur, Investor and Founder of MyVoucherCodes.co.uk)This is a guest blog by Mark Pearson (Entrepreneur, Investor and Founder of MyVoucherCodes.co.uk).

If you plan carefully, right now is the perfect time to start a new business or develop new products.

What we’re seeing now, in a world just starting to recover from a testing financial crisis, is immense creativity – new ideas, rehashed old ideas and original businesses are starting to rise from the ashes.

The truth is the job market is still pretty tough, so more and more people are turning their ideas into cash – whether on a freelance basis or by starting a new company. This is why one of the worst periods of economic instability will go down in history as one of the leading reasons why we’re just about to enter the one of most creative, entrepreneurial and exciting times.

Here are a few ideas to help get the creative juices flowing:

Reinvent the wheel

One of the best places to find inspiration is by looking at what’s already out there and try to answer the questions, “what is this missing?”, “how will this market change with future technology?” and simply, “how can I do this better?”

If you’re looking to carve your own little niche, this could a great way in. Combining the best features of existing products, or developing them for new platforms, is a fantastic way to create an original proposition.

An incredibly inspiring example of this is DePop, which is essentially a rethink of the online auction concept, in the format of an app with enhanced social capabilities. In creating DePop, founder Simon Beckerman essentially reinvented, modernised and repackaged eBay using the latest technology and insight on consumer habits.

Ask your customers

Did focus groups immediately come to mind? Forget about focus groups for now, they are useful but can generate unreliable data. Social media has given us many infinitely more useful sources of information. So, if you’re in a position to give your customers (or target audience) a platform to feedback, offer new ideas, perfect.

BMW did when they set up what they called a Virtual Innovation Agency. So it’s far generated over 4,000 ideas. Of course, this is a slightly more problematic approach for smaller or emerging businesses, so a great start off would be creating Facebook polls, asking for customer feedback or ideas in your CRM activity and by creating discussion across your social media platforms. The old saying, ‘the customer is always right’ comes to mind. Let’s adapt it for this purpose, ‘when you see trends in what customers are saying, they might be on to a profitable idea’.

What annoys you?

Sometimes inspiration can be born out of frustration. Have a think about the things which make you angry, or look for things which annoy other people – Twitter, Facebook and consumer review sites are a great place to look.

A good example of this would be waiting around for home deliveries. The geniuses behind Collect+ spotted this and have helped spark a revolution in the home delivery industry. Another example is Transferwise – what annoyed  founders, Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus was having to pay crippling 5% foreign currency transfer fees to the bank each month. So they searched for an alternative. And when they found it it was so good they used as the basis to found a business.

It also makes sense to listen to what reviewers are saying about products and businesses in publications such as Which? magazine. As well as browsing customer review websites to see what customers are saying (or not saying), try to spot the limitations of products and find ways to improve upon the concept.

Look out for loopholes

Often we’re stuck to doing things in a specific way because that’s the way they’ve always been done. But in many cases there’s other ways. The guys at Transferwise discovered a way to send money without having to pay bank fees and have forged an extremely successful business on that basis.

Another approach would be cutting out the middleman, or as I did, becoming the middleman – think about what extra value you will add to the service and if you feel it’s significant, go for it!