Improving Your Return On Innovation

Return On InnovationWe often get excited about Innovation, especially since most of it is fun. Some people can get carried away and forget that the name of the game is to make money. If we do make money then we should be maximising the amount that we do make, both for stakeholders and to reinvest in future enterprises.

One of the major ways that we can improve the return that we get is to make sure that we have possible patents in mind during our research and prototyping phases. Do not leave this any later as IP that is in the public domain cannot be patented.

Innovation teams are often isolated from a company’s patent ‘machine’. This can mean that innovation processes can move forward with little or no consideration of whether competitors can copy the resulting products. The innovation process itself is fairly well protected since what is kept in the heads of employees is hard to copy. The resulting ‘innovations’ can be somewhat easier to copy. They may not be a direct copy but they will result in customers going elsewhere to buy cheap imitations. If the IP contained is not patented then there are two major issues to consider:

  1. Competitors may simply work out how we have created a product and then copy it, reducing its value to us
  2. For high value items such as pharmaceuticals we lose the ability to licence products and hence generate revenue if we do not wish to take them to market./

Companies may then not attain expected returns because competitors can legally copy the innovation—be it a product, technology or otherwise—without incurring legal penalties.

It is not always necessary to protect innovation outputs with patents e.g if  a product has a short shelf-life or where the company may desire to protect technology by treating it as a trade secret. However, for innovation programmes where business strategy  assumes exclusivity, companies must usually seek  patent protection.

Also, the absence of a function that provides patent expertise may mean that innovations are not properly audited  for risks of potential patent infringement or other IP protection infringement until significant development effort and expense have been expended.


Are You The Creative Type?

creative typeIs there such a thing as a creative type (other than one who holds a paintbrush or who gets covered in glue)? Here are just a few traits that might help you a) identify potentially creative people b) determine whether you are creative or not yourself. Note that these ‘tests’ are designed for the workplace and not to test your painting or photography skills.

Creative people share many of the following traits, they are likely to:

  • be able to live with a high degree of uncertainty
  • thrive on novelty
  • be tolerant of ambiguity
  • be optimistic
  • be open to alternatives
  • daydream
  • be independent
  • be persistent
  • be sceptical
  • take risks
  • have a well developed sense of humour
  • use hunches and instinct to make decisions
  • be curious and observant
  • have multiple interests
  • constantly expose themselves to new ideas and experiences
  • resist conforming
  • be deeply committed to what they do
  • constantly share ideas and information with colleagues (well anyone who will listen actually)

So is this you?


Creative Thinking For Busy People

Too busyYou don’t have time to attend a creativity workshop or read a book on the matter but you might just have time to read a short article. Read on, this is the article that you have been waiting for! Whether you want to try a few creative things for the first time or just want something to try on the fly then this is for you. Take note of, or try the following:

1) Ignore what other people think of your ideas or talent (at least for today). You know yourself better than they do.

2) Spend as much time as possible with creative people. You will find that the most consistently creative people are children because they have not had their creativity removed by our education systems. “Mind merging” with them can remind you of  the time when there was no box to think outside of!

3) If you have trouble getting started with creative thinking then the answer lies inside you. Everyone is creative, but if you don’t think you’re ‘good’ enough to be creative, or think very little of your own ideas the the chances are you will become a self fulfilling prophecy and dull as ditch water. The solution?  Raise your self esteem and you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to be your creative self.

4) Whenever you’re challenged to create something or come up with new ideas, ask yourself: What’s the most outrageous, preposterous, and nonsensical thing I can come up with? Use these ideas as  springboards for other less outrageous ideas that you could use on a daily basis.

5) Change the ways you do things, take another route to work, watch TV with one eye or read while you are on the toilet. Just try doing everyday things differently.

6) Change the colours of objects that you surround yourself with. Some studies have shown that a blue environment enhances creativity but red causes us to pay more attention to detail. You could try these two colours or simply experiment.


Why We Hate Creativity

Why we hate creativityImagine for a minute that I have been asked by the top management in your company to radically change the way you work because they have bought into my philosophy about using Creativity as a serious business tool.You and your colleagues receive the following text in an email on Friday afternoon.

Dear Colleague,

Our company is going to adopt a radical business model that will help us to be more efficient, get products to market faster but above all remain ahead of the competition. As a result there will be some changes to the structure of the organisation as well as the introduction of new management and business tools and for many there will be changes to the IT services provided by our IT department.

All affected staff will receive comprehensive training commencing on Monday morning. Please read the attached notes for your personalised training programme. 

We are all excited by the forthcoming changes and we hope that you will be too


Your Senior Management Team


How Much Of Your Brain Do You Use?

99% of your brain activity is responsible for your creativity. The trouble is that you are only likely to be aware of the other 1%!

Research suggests that all of your conscious thought (language, problem-solving, senses etc)  makes up less than 1% of your brain activity. So while the old saying that “you only use 10% of your brain” is most definitely false, it’s amazing that the vast majority of your brain activity is actually going on without you knowing about it.

The generation of new ideas is one thing which happens under wraps . Ideas are generated when your brain takes existing knowledge and memories, and forms a new neural connection which did not previously exist, thereby linking together and building on concepts in a new way, which sometimes generates a solution to a challenge (a new idea).

Your brain works at varying levels during the course of a day. The linking of new neural connections (and hence the generation of ideas) happens best when your brain is in a  more relaxed state . If you are extremely focused on something,  then these activities actually put your brain in a higher level of activity and require greater energy resources. This in turn hinders your brain’s ability to form new connections and generate ideas. So if you work long hours or remain focused for long periods of time  you’re harming you brain’s ability to come up with creative ideas. It is this idea of being relaxed/focused behaviour that has partly led to the creation of the left brain/right brain model.

To improve your idea generation ability, it is therefore important to give your mind an opportunity to get into a relaxed state. Many of history’s eureka moments  have occurred  when no one was expecting them due to their mind being elsewhere. Using brain scans, scientists have been able to show that our brains are more able to generate ideas and come up with better solutions to problems when it has been rested. Here are just a few things that might help your brain attain that relaxed state:

  • Sleeping
  • Showering
  • Exercising
  • Daydreaming
  • Doing anything that  lets your mind wander

So whilst you might not be conscious of how much of your brain you use you are actually using all of it and by relaxing a little you might get better at generating ideas. Give it a try!

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