For a small business, sometimes getting a great idea turned into a sellable product or service can prove difficult.
Thankfully, there are practical steps that can be taken to get an idea out of your head, onto paper and into a production line.
Keep in mind that great ideas come in many different forms. It might not be a new product, but an improvement to an existing product. It might involve better packaging. Or it might be a better way to make a product that’s more efficient for the company while retaining or improving quality.
Whatever the case, consider these smart management tips to get your idea from thought to reality.
Trust the Process
Here’s the sobering truth. Most new ideas fail. As pointed out in the Harvard Business Review, that’s often because they were not subjected to a research and testing process. While the exact percentage of new idea failure varies by whoever is doing the research, most agree it’s somewhere in the 85% to 90% range.
That’s an intimidating number.
But it doesn’t mean your new idea will fail. It means you want to trust the smart management process and put your idea through plenty of testing before committing to it.
The Fount of Ideas
Ideas can come from many places. Employees on the front lines see ways to do things better. Outside consultants who have a wider view might see the need for a modified product. Looking at a competitor’s products could also spark an idea.
As pointed out by Smithsonian.com, every human being has the drive to change up the routine and do something different. That drive could be higher or lower in some people, but creativity is a biological trait of every person.
Influences come from everywhere. Painters look at previous painters’ works. Writers do the same with other writers. Businesspeople also do the same. Henry Ford, for example, used Eli Whitney’s creation of interchangeable gun parts and the cigarette industry’s manufacturing workflow as inspiration for this creation of the modern assembly line factory, according to the Smithsonian.
When innovative ideas come to you, it’s important to take the time to sit down and look at it from all sides. Ask yourself:
- This sounds great, but is it doable?
- Will it make for a better product for consumers?
- Will it make our operation more efficient?
- Do we have the market for this idea?
- Does this fit into our overall business strategy?
If it passes this initial round of questioning, it might be worth going onto further steps. One of those is to run the idea past people you trust in your industry. Find out if they think the idea is viable. Research your industry and determine whether your product will offer people something they aren’t already getting from competitors.
At this point, if the idea still looks good, it’s time to take a more qualitative approach, as follows.
Business analysis: With this, you will evaluate market demand, the projected costs for the new idea and the potential profits. If the numbers don’t add up, it’s back to the idea generation board. This step often goes better with an outside consultant who will bring more objectivity to the process.
Develop the product: Create the prototype for what you want to eventually sell. Once completed, don’t show it to a group of people invested in the product. Instead, show it to critics who will take it apart. Make changes based on feedback. In today’s business world, it’s also a good idea to set up a website that features the product. That fosters feedback from consumers and provides an idea of the overall interest in your product.
Test market: The time-honored approach still works. Much like smaller movies will open in test markets such as New York or Los Angeles, it’s important to pick one location or sell through one retailer to see how interested people are in the product. This can lead to further changes in the product and could help hone a marketing message that includes all four of the Ps: product, price, promotion and place.
If the new idea has reached this stage successfully, it’s time for the big rollout. By putting this amount of work and research into the idea, your chances of success are much higher.