Top tips to making your business more innovative

New research commissioned by Orange has found that small businesses are struggling to create implementable ideas. Three quarters are generating more business ideas now compared to five years ago. However, over half of these ideas aren’t practical and can’t be implemented.

To help start-ups and entrepreneurs create implementable ideas, he’s gathered insights into how some of the world’s most innovative firms including 3M, Diageo and Bupa create great ideas. From this, a guide has been developed to help small firms run the perfect brainstorm. Dominic Swords shares the key findings:

Keep ideas focussed
Be clear about what you want to achieve from the brainstorm. Whether this is coming up with new product ideas or identifying a new target market, make sure you know what you want the ideas to do. Then, irrespective of who is taking part in the brainstorm, write a brief – a single sentence will do.

Get out of the office
Get out of the office and break the daily routine. Giving employees a different perspective, away from the office, will help inspire staff to create new business ideas. For example, 3M uses the London Eye to hold team brainstorms.

Think of ideas ahead of the brainstorm
Research proves that individuals come up with better initial ideas than groups, therefore send your one-sentence brief to four or five people who are participating in the brainstorm ahead of time. Ask them to spend no more than 30 minutes coming up with ideas they can bring to the group. This will ensure you’ll get straight into the innovation process. It will also encourage ‘quiet reflectors’ to contribute.

Build on the best ideas
Get the group to work on one idea at a time and develop them into testable concepts. Encourage participants to use “yes, and” to build on each idea. Eliminate the use of the negative phrase “yes, but” which can drain energy from the session.

Road-test your ideas
An idea is only an innovation if it’s useful and can be implemented, therefore the next stage is to test the ideas. Ask your customers what they think. Watch how they react and ask for feedback. Allocate the ideas you want to take forward to specific people or teams, or alternatively set a deadline to review them by. Identify the business benefits each idea will generate and how well it fits into your business plan. Finally, keep a record of all ideas generated in the session. In six months, one idea might have an application you hadn’t previously considered.