Out with the Old: 10 Ways You Can Innovate ANYTHING in 2014

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It's often referred to as "the innovation imperative;" to remain relevant in today's chaotic and highly competitive marketplace, you must be willing and able to reinvent your business offering on a continuous basis. Mitchell Rigie and Keith Harmeyer, creative problem solving experts and co-authors of SmartStorming, demystify the often elusive innovation process and offer several pathways to its achievement.

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Mitchell Rigie & Keith Harmeyer
Partners, SmartStorming LLC

There's no one-size-fits-all formula that leads to innovation. But there are some proven creative problem solving approaches that individuals, teams and entire organizations can use to facilitate the process.

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Innovation is the new "Darwinism" in business: you either innovate, or risk market extinction. Not long ago a company could thrive for decades on one great idea; today it seems you need a game-changer every week.

This non-negotiable requirement to innovate is the fire that burns under every business. We know we need it; we strive to do it. But many of us have only a vague notion of what we're trying to achieve. Just what qualifies as innovation, anyway?

"Innovation can be defined as the introduction of something new or different that provides greater value or benefit," says Mitchell Rigie, coauthor with Keith Harmeyer of SmartStorming: The Game-Changing Process for Generating Bigger, Better Ideas (Dog Ear Publishing, 2013, ISBN: 978-1457516634, $29.95, http://www.smartstorming.com). "It's a simple definition for what can be a complex process. But it's clear enough to help people understand what they should be aiming for when generating ideas."

"There's no one-size-fits-all formula that leads to innovation," adds Harmeyer. "But there are some proven creative problem solving approaches that individuals, teams and entire organizations can use to facilitate the process."

Rigie and Harmeyer suggest ten idea-inspiring ways to tinker with the characteristics, ingredients, form and function of pretty much anything—a product, service, process or message—in order to make it more innovative. Take a moment to consider each of the following pathways of opportunity. See which ones spark new, “A-ha!” possibilities.

1. Simplify it—Innovative ideas are often startling in their simplicity. Unnecessary parts, steps, ingredients, etc. are stripped away to reveal an elegantly effective solution. What can be eliminated, streamlined or combined to make your product, service or process as simple as possible?

2. Make it more intuitive—Today's consumer prefers anything that is streamlined, intuitive and easy-to-understand. Many products don't even include instruction manuals! How can you make it easier for your customer to understand, learn, use or interact with your goods or services?

3. Speed it up—Anything faster and more efficient, by definition provides greater value. Many people will pay a premium just to save a few precious minutes. In what ways can you speed up performance, response time, waiting time, delivery, download speed, etc.?

4. Extend the experience—While in many ways ours has become a disposable society, people still value enduring quality and lasting value. How can you extend an enjoyable experience, make something more durable, lengthen shelf life, prolong relief or provide 24/7 access?

5. Make it beautiful—Sleek, sophisticated design and elegant functionality are coveted by many consumers, and often command premium prices. What can you do to elevate the esthetics of your goods or service? How can you delight your customer's senses?

6. Make it indispensable—The more challenges a product or service solves, the more indispensable that thing becomes. For example, smart phones allow us to talk, text, take and share photos, surf the Web, interact with friends, conduct business and more—all from a single device that many people rely on every day. In what ways can you add features and address a wider range of needs? How can you make your product or service one we can't live without?

7. Enhance the quality—Superior quality becomes the standard against which similar things are measured. Quality goods and services don’t just meet customer expectations—they exceed them. Can you raise your benchmark for excellence and make your product the best in its category?

8. Add emotion—Companies like Coca-Cola, Target, Apple and Nike not only appeal to their customers' minds, they also forge an intimate, emotional connection that transcends logic. How can you develop a more personal relationship with your customers, one that resonates not only in their heads, but in their hearts?

9. Socialize it—Social networking provides an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to engage in real-time dialogue with customers, collect valuable data, offer incentives and strengthen brand loyalty. In what ways can you build greater social connectivity with your customers and become a part of their daily lives?

10. Inspire awe—The most audacious and disruptive innovation introduces radically new and unexpected features, functions, design or value propositions, with the power to transform markets or create entirely new ones. What bold, new, dramatic improvements will set your product or service apart from all others? How big can you think?

"These ten creative problem solving approaches can be applied to just about anything," says Rigie. "The trick is to explore, imagine, play with the possibilities—while always asking, 'Will this change introduce something new or different that provides greater value or benefit?'"

"That's what innovation is really all about," says Harmeyer. "The greatest innovators simply accept nothing less than continuous improvement, always moving closer to perfection. Just wake up every day and search for something to make better. There's always something."


About SmartStorming:
SmartStorming partners Mitchell Rigie and Keith Harmeyer have a combined 50+ years of experience as creative executives in the fields of advertising and strategic marketing, and are recognized thought-leaders and authors on the subjects of brainstorming, creative problem solving and idea generation.

SmartStorming methodology is based on Mitchell and Keith’s professional experience and expertise, as well as extensive research. SmartStorming has been embraced by an international audience of thousands of corporate professionals from a wide range of industries, as well as to graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

For more information, please visit http://www.SmartStorming.com.

About the Book:
SmartStorming: The Game-Changing Process for Generating Bigger, Better Ideas (Dog Ear, August 2013, ISBN: 978-1-4575-1663-4, $29.95) is available at all major online booksellers and at http://www.SmartStorming.com/book.

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