21 Great Ways to Innovate

Continuous innovation is not easy and if you keep using the same method you will experience diminishing results. Try innovating how you innovate by employing some of these ideas from Paul Sloane.

How hard is it to innovate? Not once but over and over? How can you repeatedly implement great new products, processes or services? Continuous innovation is not easy and if you keep using the same method you will experience diminishing results. Try innovating how you innovate by employing some of these ideas.

  1. Copy someone else’s idea. One of the best ways to innovate is to pinch an idea that works elsewhere and apply it in your business. Henry Ford saw the production line working in a meat packing plant and then applied to the automobile industry thereby dramatically reducing assembly times and costs.
  2. Ask customers. If you simply ask your customers how you could improve your product or service they will give you plenty of ideas for incremental innovations. Typically they will ask for new features or that you make your product cheaper, faster, easier to use, available in different styles and colours etc. Listen to these requests carefully and choose the ones that will really pay back.
  3. Observe customers. Do not just ask them, watch them. Try to see how customers use your products. Do they use them in new ways? This was what Levi Strauss saw when they found that customers ripped the jeans – so they brought a line of pre-ripped jeans. Heinz noticed that people stored their sauce jars upside down so they designed an upside down bottle.
  4. Use difficulties and complaints. If customers have difficulties with any aspect of using your product or if they register complaints then you have a strong starting point for innovations. Make your product easier to use, eliminate the current inconveniences and introduce improvements that overcome the complaints.
  5. Combine. Combine your product with something else to make something new. It works at all levels. Think of a suitcase with wheels, or a mobile phone with a camera or a flight with a massage.
  6. Eliminate. What could you take out of your product or service to make it better? Dell eliminated the computer store, Amazon eliminated the bookstore, the Sony Walkman eliminated speakers and record functions.
  7. Ask your staff. Challenge the people who work in the business to find new and better ways to do things and new and better ways to please customers. They are close to the action and can see opportunities for innovation. Often they just need encouragement to bring forward great ideas.
  8. Plan. Include targets for new products and services in your business plan. Put it onto the balanced scorecard. Write innovation into everyone’s objectives. Measure it and it will happen.
  9. Run brainstorms. Have regular brainstorm meetings where you generate a large quantity of new product ideas. Use diverse groups from different areas of the business and include a provocative outsider e.g. a customer or supplier.
  10. Examine patents. Check through patents that apply in your field. Are there some that you could license? Are some expiring so that you can now use that method? Is there a different way of achieving the essential idea in a patent?
  11. Collaborate. Work with another company who can take you to places you can’t go. Choose a partner with a similar philosophy but different skills. That is what Mercedes did with Swatch when they came up with the Smart car.
  12. Minimize or maximize. Take something that is standard in the industry and minimise or maximise it. Ryanair minimized price and customer service. Starbucks maximised price and customer experience. It is better to be different than to be better.
  13. Run a contest. Ask members of the public to suggest great new product ideas. Offer a prize. Give people a clear focussed goal and they will surprise you with novel ideas. Good for innovation and PR.
  14. Ask – what if? Do some lateral thinking by asking what if…..? Challenge every boundary and assumption that applies in your field. You and your group will come up with amazing ideas once the normal constraints are lifted.
  15. Watch the competition. Do not slavishly follow the competition but watch them intelligently. The small guys are often the most innovative so see if you can adapt or license one of their ideas – or even buy the company!
  16. Outsource. Subcontract your new product development challenge to a design company, a University, a start-up or a crowdsourcing site like ive or NineSigma.
  17. Use open innovation. Big consumer products companies like Proctor and Gamble or Reckitt Benckiser encourage developers to bring novel products to them. They are flexible on IP protection and give a clear focus on what they are looking for. A large proportion of their new products now start life outside the company.
  18. Adapt a product to a new use. Find an entirely different application for an existing product. De Beers produced industrial diamonds but found a new use for diamonds when they introduced the concept of engagement rings. It opened up a large new market for them.
  19. Try Triz. Triz is a systematic method for solving problems. It can be applied in many fields but is particularly useful in engineering and product design. Triz gives you a toolbox of methods to solve contradictions e.g. how can we make this product run faster but with less power?
  20. Go back in time. Look back at methods and services that were used in your sector years ago but have now fallen out of use. Can you bring one back in a new updated form? It has been said that Speed Dating is really a relaunch of a Victorian dance format where ladies had cards marked with appointments.
  21. Use social networks. Follow trends and ask questions on groups like Twitter or Facebook. Ask what people want to see in future products or what the big new idea will be. Many early adopters are active on social network groups and will happily respond with suggestions.


Long-Term Success Lessons From Tech’s Most Innovative Companies

Innovation is everything in our ever-changing business world. If you want your business to remain on top, you have to keep up with the latest and greatest trends.

However, there’s also something to be said for “tried and true” business tactics. According to members of Forbes Technology Council, the most innovative companies of the last 20 years had some common keys to their long-term success, and today’s tech leaders can follow in their footsteps. Here’s how you can implement some of the lessons imparted by these technology giants.

1. Be The Best At Something

Searching the Web existed before Google, iPhones were not the first touchscreen phones, Amazon didn’t invent e-commerce and social media companies existed before Facebook. What all these giants did was to make the product better than anyone else. They focused on what their users wanted. They tested every pixel obsessively. They made things better and became the best in their fields. – Vikram Joshipulsd

2. Be Customer-Obsessed

Amazon has created raving buyers because the company culture is focused primarily on customer obsession. They start with what customers desire most and work backward from there. It requires a bold, innovative and creative approach to building products and services, and clearly, it works very well. – Mike

3. Keep Iterating

The most innovative companies have leveraged modern tech to move quickly and expand through iteration. Examples include Amazon’s use of the internet for e-commerce, Google’s search engine, Tesla’s electric cars or Uber’s use of GPS-enabled smartphones to connect passengers with a ride. Tech leaders would do well to emulate the speed, obsessive customer focus and agility of these innovators. – Alexandre BilgerSinequa

4. Support Your Technology With Backend Infrastructure

Apple’s iPod transformed how people navigate, organize and listen to music; iTunes transformed the procurement of music and more; and the omnipresent iPhone drove Apple’s revival into the brand it is today. However, Apple also demonstrates enviable mastery in its contracts and licensing negotiations, backend infrastructure, and so on to support an unparalleled user experience (UX). – Anand JanefalkarUJET

5. Reinvent Rather Than Revise

Companies like Apple, Amazon and Uber gave us new ways of living, not by modifying what already existed, but by reimagining what should exist. The most impactful innovations are those that people haven’t even thought of yet. My advice: Forget what you think you know about an industry, start from scratch based on solid first principles and develop something entirely different. – Ron CogburnExela Technologies

6. Learn And Improve

I think the most successful companies start with something great, but then learn from and improve that concept over time. Look at Netflix, for example. They started with a DVD mailing service, which was game-changing; evolved to streaming video; and then began developing original content. Now they are improving personalization using machine learning—Netflix is always learning and improving. – Amy CzuchlewskiBottle Rocket

7. Be A Flat Organization

Shifting companies to fewer layers of management has been key to driving business and market agility, better communication, more innovation and, especially, creativity. Business innovates best when employees can voice their ideas and concerns and have them heard. Flat organizations help innovative ideas and evolution happen better and faster, and you need to be quick to compete and win. – Artem PetrovReinvently

8. Create A Culture Of Innovation

Innovation only happens if the company culture is such that it breeds innovative thinking. One way that companies can create this innovative culture is through rewarding innovation. Nothing works as well as rewards in getting employees to think of new, innovative ways to solve problems or improve the efficiency of products, services and processes. – Michael HoytLife Cycle Engineering, Inc.

9. Maintain A Core Vision

The most innovative companies provide customer-driven solutions that solve a real need and pain, sometimes even when it’s not widely recognized. Leaders must build and maintain a core vision that is backed by everyone in the organization and a culture that drives engagement, alignment and a passion for customer success. – Chen AmitTipalti Ltd.

10. Don’t Be Afraid To Disrupt Your Own Business Model

The most innovative companies aren’t afraid to disrupt legacy industries, disrupt their own business models and jump into new opportunities long before competitors can even dream. Their leaders are able to think 10 steps ahead. They can identify a global problem and quickly form teams to create new business models. The strategy is to innovate fast and get the product to market so it can scale. – Marc FischerDogtown Media LLC

11. Labor For Simplicity

A lot of the most innovative companies labor for simplicity with their products. Apple makes their products so simple to use that toddlers are able to use them. If you own a website or software company, make your site easy to use by focusing on creating an intuitive UX design and making the checkout process seamless. – Thomas GriffinOptinMonster

12. Master Your Real-Time Data

Over the last 20 years, it has been impossible to ignore the outsized disruptive impact of the digital giants. The commonality? Absolute mastery of real-time data, without which they could not achieve what they do. And they are not slowing down. Leaders today must figure out how to gain command of their real-time data to drive their businesses in the same way. This is non-negotiable in any industry. – Billy BosworthDataStax

13. Focus On The Customer Experience

Customer experience is the key to the success of any business, and it applies to all the verticals and types of businesses. Digital solutions must be part of tech leaders’ strategy when it comes to increasing profits and providing an excellent customer experience. The true implementation of artificial intelligence, chatbots, robotic process automation, cloud and big data can bring significant transformation to any organization



Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

A former international hostage negotiator for the FBI offers a new, field-tested approach to high-stakes negotiations—whether in the boardroom or at home.

After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a hostage negotiator brought him face-to-face with a range of criminals, including bank robbers and terrorists. Reaching the pinnacle of his profession, he became the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. Never Split the Difference takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss’s head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In this practical guide, he shares the nine effective principles—counterintuitive tactics and strategies—you too can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life.

Life is a series of negotiations you should be prepared for: buying a car, negotiating a salary, buying a home, renegotiating rent, deliberating with your partner. Taking emotional intelligence and intuition to the next level, Never Split the Difference gives you the competitive edge in any discussion.


Download the book here: Never Split the Difference_ Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It ( )

The Edge: R&BD, JA Bulgaria and United Bulgarian Bank started a new pre-acceleration program ”Challenge YOU”

Challenge YOU is a practical 12 week program that aims to support students to start their own startup. During the program, participants form teams, learn how to recognize opportunities, develop business plans and prototypes, and practice their presentation skills by pitching to a targeted audience of potential investors and supporters.

The program is open to Bulgarian students – bachelor, master and PhD level, from all majors and universities who have an idea to launch businesses in the following areas: virtual reality, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, fintech, healthcare, clean energy, agro innovation and others.

During the program, students participate in intensive workshops and trainings that combine theory with practice – design thinking course, mentoring afternoons, Demo Day, and final competition to select the best team. The prize for the winner includes mentoring and consultations with experienced professionals from UBB, JA Bulgaria and The Edge: R&BD (e.g. lawyer, financier, intellectual property specialist).

In addition, all teams will be invited to present at the Youth Business Forum „Rising Stars“ on 9 –10 June in Sofia. The event is organized by JA Bulgaria for the 12th consecutive year and provides students with the opportunity to compete for a number of awards including funding of 10,000 leva.

For more information you can visit

Mission Possible: Make Innovation Open to Anyone, Anywhere

The U.S.-based International Business Innovation Association estimates that there are about 7,000 incubators worldwide, some with better track records  than others, but all seemingly working towards a common goal: spread innovation like wildfire. Early in the year, I spoke with David Mandelbrot, CEO of IndieGogo, about startup funding, support, and how our approach to innovation is shifting and have been on the search for accelerators that flip the odds.

Opening the Innovation Gates

Plug and Play is recognized as the most active venture capital firm in the United States. With over 270 global investments every year, their mission, „To make innovation open to anyone, anywhere,“ seems viable if they keep up with those kind of numbers. And with so many incubators around the world, I was curious… what makes Plug and Play unique? What exactly are they doing that is allowing this level of growth to take place? After working with startups for over twelve years, Plug and Play has refined matching up with corporations based to create „mutually beneficial partnerships“ that embody spirit of open innovation.

Modern Community As the Backbone

In an absolute change of pace, Plug and Play is focusing a large amount of their attention on partnerships, connections, and building an undeniably powerful network designed to ensure the success of their startups at every stage of growth. This mission of making innovation open  to anyone, while collaborating and involving corporations; and helping to direct innovation into projects and products of high market, and  business value, is inadvertently counteracting the effect of gatekeepers.

Intentional Inclusion

This model supports what I refer to as intentional inclusion, creating space for diversity amid platforms where this was previously unsupported. In fact, I’ve dubbed this the year of intentional inclusion, and businesses, like Plug and Play, are proving me right. They might be living the dream in Silicon Valley, but they are creating a global movement. Currently boasting 26-locations around the world, they all have strategic partnerships launching startups into supported roles in their dedicated markets.

Acceleration Aligned

My conversation with Alex Mojtahedi, Managing Director at Plug and Play, jumped from innovation, to playing chess with your eyes closed- a skill Mojtahedi possesses, and even to discussing Colin Farrell. The 4th Annual City Summit & Gala, a personal favorite, will take over the Burbank Convention Center February 21st-24th, an event Plug and Play sponsors due to aligning missions. This year, Golden Globe Award winning actor Colin Farrell will be there to accept an inspiration award. Mojtahedi pointed out that much of what City Summit’s Founder, Ryan Long, aims to do for social good non-profit acceleration is aligned with Plug and Play’s long term goals for their startups.

As if that wasn’t already exciting enough, it seems Colin Farrell is also aligned with Plug and Play’s mission possible, and equally impressed with the direction of City Summit. In Farrell’s own words, „I’m grateful to organizations like the City Summit for highlighting professionals and providing awareness and support to entrepreneurs that want to help solve today’s challenges.“

Market Proof Is Undeniable

Some of the messaging I predict we will hear at the City Summit this year, as well as continue to hear from Mojtahedi and Plug and Play is this: Incubators often fail to get true market proof, and we see this in the end numbers of case studies showing failure after failure, regardless of funding. In this venture capital ecosystem, it’s common for people to move on, for businesses to be in constant flux, and for change to happen more rapidly than we experience in most other circumstances. Fifty-six percent of success can come from having the right product market fit, and as long as our efforts reflect that truth, there’s nowhere we can’t go.


The Richest Man In Babylon

The Richest Man in Babylon is considered as the greatest of all inspirational works on the subject of thrift, financial planning, and personal wealth. Revealed inside are the secrets to acquiring money, keeping money, and making money earn more money.

Providing financial wisdom through parables, ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ was originally a set of pamphlets, written by the author and distributed by banks and insurance companies. These pamphlets were later bundled together, giving birth to a book. In this new rendering by Charles Conrad, the classic tale is retold in clear, simple language for today’s readers. These fascinating and informative stories set you on a sure path to prosperity and its accompanying joys.

Download the book here:

IBM’s New „5 in 5“ Predictions Point to a New Era of Innovation

Every year, IBM publishes its list of five innovations that will change the world in five years. There aren’t just predictions, but represent grand challenges that the company intends to take on. As IBM’s Chief Innovation Officer Bernie Meyerson once put it to me, „What we’re really aiming for isn’t to predict the future, but to change the future.“

Last year, for example, the „5 in 5“ included combining crypto-anchors with blockchain to secure the world’s supply chain and it formed a joint venture with Maersk to help bring that about. It also included a new form of encryption, called lattice-based cryptography and more transparent AI algorithms, all things its scientists are actively working on.

This year’s „5 in 5“ is different in several ways. First, rather than a horizontal overview, it focuses on one industrial vertical: the food supply chain. Second, rather than focusing exclusively on information technology, it foresees an intense collaboration between the computer industry and other fields. Third, it marks a break from business as usual to a new era of innovation.

Rising to New Challenges

The shift in emphasis in this year’s „5 in 5“ is no accident, but points to a larger change in the role of information technology itself. Historically, the primary role computers played was to help organizations run administrative functions, such as accounting and payroll. The Internet helped move IT into a more operational role over the past few decades, but Jeff Welser, VP and Lab Director at IBM Research, sees an even greater shift ahead.

„Throughout our history, IBM has been an information company,“ he told me. We helped our customers run their back office. During the Gerstner years, beginning in the late 90s, we began to help firms run their business processes and we made a major effort to develop the expertise to do that.“

„Now,“ he continues „our customers are increasingly asking for our help running things in the real world and we need to rise to that challenge.“ He also noted that the shift will entail more than just developing and deploying technologies, but also how his company works with other organizations.

„One of the things that makes this „5 in 5″ different is that all of these challenges require us to work with partners,“ Welser explains. „So it is a call for action for us, but also for those who we collaborate with that these are problems that we are serious about solving.“

Reimagining the Food Supply Chain

The 2019 „5 in 5“ list imagines how technology will revolutionize the food supply chain from „seed to shelf“. For example, using a technology called twinning, which uses a wide array of sensors along with geospatial and weather data to create simulations so accurate that they effectively become a „digital twin,“ it can help farmers vastly increase yields while reducing environmental costs.

After those crops are harvested, blockchain will help each node in the food ecosystem, from farmers to grocers, to know exactly where each crop goes and where it came from. Walmart, in fact, has already begun this process, using IBM technology to track leafy green vegetables all the way back to the particular farm each piece came from.

Once crops arrive at food processors, food safety inspectors will use next generation sequencing machines combined with massive databases of microbial genomes (IBM has one of the largest), to improve food safety. When food hits the table, improved optics of smartphone cameras will enable AI systems to identify contaminants and to evaluate quality and provenance.

Finally, once the food is eaten, a new catalytic process that IBM has developed, called VolCat, will dissolve plastics down to the basic building blocks of the polymer. This will enable us to recycle many materials that today end up in landfills, improving the environment and societal health.

The company also points out that that by the end of the century the earth’s population will increase by 45 percent, while farmable land will decrease by 20 percent. So making our food supply chain more efficient is something that is critical to achieve.

Overcoming Obstacles

The „5 in 5“ points to possibilities that are exciting and certainly not confined to food. Blockchain, to take just one example, has the potential for significant impact on logistics across many industries. However, none of these developments are assured, which is why IBM wants to highlight the potential in order to spur action.

All of these have significant challenges,“ Welser says. „Some are scientific and we need to work with experts in areas like genomics, microbiology and other things. In other cases, there are scaling challenges. Going from milliliters in the lab to metric tons in the real world is no trivial thing. In others, such as blockchain, there are market challenges and we need to make sure that various market players are properly incentivized.“

„For me as lab director, I need to look at hiring more broadly and bring in the expertise we need to overcome these challenges. We also need to partner more intensely than we ever have before. Throughout our history, commercial and academic partnerships have been a big part of our success. Now we need to scale that effort and partner with researchers at other businesses far more broadly than we ever have before.“

A New Era of Innovation

We appear to be at an inflection point unlike anything we’ve since since the 1950’s, when we first made the shift from mechanical to digital computers. Today, with Moore’s law reaching theoretical limits, the digital age itself is coming to an end. At the same time, new technologies, such as quantum computing, as well as the rapid advancement in fields like genomics and materials science, require a new approach.

„I think the fact that we chose to focus on the „5 in 5″ on a particular industry represents a shift in the role of information technology in the years to come,“ Welser observes. „In the past, we were focused on solving discrete problems that our customers came to us with and we would come up with information based solutions for those.“

„Now, we’re finding we need to approach problems more holistically,“ he continues „looking more broadly at entire systems and, in some cases, entire ecosystems, to come up with solutions that involve multiple partners, multiple stakeholders and the public at large.“

The truth is that the challenges we face as a society today, climate change and food security being two of the most prominent, are far more complex than anything we’ve tackled before. Even a company like IBM, with its century of history and multi-billion dollar research budgets, can’t go it alone. In the new era of innovation, collaboration is increasingly becoming a competitive advantage.



How To Gain A Competitive Advantage With Your Research And Development Data

Those monitoring economic megatrends would do well to look at research and development (R&D). We live in an age of unprecedented innovation. Many of the world’s biggest companies and most ubiquitous technologies were unimaginable a decade or two ago. While commodities such as oil – the engine of the economy for the last century – remain important for now, the real driver of modern economies is research and innovation, and the key to successful R&D is the good use of data.

R&D Drives Today’s Most Successful Companies

Of the top ten companies by market capitalization, seven are digital innovators (Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba and Tencent). Ten years ago only Microsoft made this list, which was then dominated by oil and gas giants. The latest list also includes Johnson & Johnson, a big investor in healthcare R&D, and Berkshire Hathaway, which had built its fortune on long-term investments in innovators.

Most of today’s top global tech companies got where they are very quickly. Their products and services are in a constant cycle of innovation to avoid being outdone by their peers or by disruptive startups. Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft spent over $58 billion on R&D in 2017 according to PwC. It’s not just their deep pockets that have brought success – these are digital companies built on data – using data to drive their businesses forward is in their DNA.

Data has always been collected in R&D to understand and refine new innovations – the difference now is how much and how diverse this data has become. Everything from chemical pathways to physical properties to user interaction is carefully monitored and captured. Many different sensors, from highly sensitive measurement and analytical devices in labs and testing facilities to identifying tags on products to smartphones in users’ pockets all capture data which feeds back into R&D processes. Within this data lies huge insight into the best route to the optimal outcome. The world’s most successful companies are laser-focused on finding that insight in their R&D data. Others still need to get their house in order before they can start using their R&D data effectively.

Although the digital giants are masters at data-driven innovation, companies in more established industries realize they cannot rest on their laurels and are taking inspiration from these digital leaders. Automotive companies, partly driven by the threat of disruption from upstarts like Tesla and tech companies like Google, are becoming more innovative. Similarly, renewables and energy storage are challenging fossil fuel’s dominance, driving oil and gas companies to innovate furiously.

Spotting The Next Billion-Dollar Product

The most effective way to harness this data is through digital R&D, a coordinated process of taking any data involved in R&D processes – from experimental data to product images and industry standards – and presenting it in a digital format, allowing for visualization of that data and the building of predictive models. Such models help R&D departments understand the likelihood of success of research routes and inform business decisions on which products to focus resources on developing.

This has game-changing potential. Digital R&D promotes a completely new approach to innovation, allowing companies to start with a model of what they want to achieve and to use this model to accurately describe new products and how they can be produced at scale while ensuring quality. Pharmaceuticals already have sophisticated models to identify what properties drug-like compounds require to meet specific disease efficacy, helping them identify new treatments that make billions and make patient lives better.

Smarter R&D

While it’s exciting to speculate about game-changing tech, clean energy and blockbuster drugs, R&D is iterative and incremental. Seemingly small improvements reduce the cost of business and keep products ahead of the game, such as new techniques for manufacturing faster semiconductors or a new product formulation to make a shampoo’s fragrance suited to a new market or increase its shelf life. Data collected in R&D is already being used by many companies to model changes to existing products.

Data can also make R&D more cost-effective. It reduces research time by guiding research scientists to experiments with the highest chance of success and dismissing unproductive routes. Making R&D data accessible reduces duplication of research and allows new discoveries which may otherwise not have been considered. With companies spending billions on R&D, a 10% efficiency improvement means big savings. Some companies talk about R&D bringing time-to-market down from months and years to weeks.

The R&D Digitalization Dream

While R&D digitalization is a fact of life at the tech giants, many non-digital companies have not yet used R&D data to full effect, but times are changing and companies are starting to recognize that using it well can be the difference between disrupting and being disrupted.

Most are, quite rightly, starting small. It’s a big move. They are collecting data from small parts of their R&D departments and exploring what can be done with it. Then they roll out projects across departments, gradually standardize processes and introduce new technologies to allow data to be captured and shared. Over time, more data sets can be combined and more accurate and sophisticated models developed, building toward true digitalization. Techniques such as machine learning and neural networks can be applied to gradually draw out more and more insight hidden within data.

Ultimately, as companies collect more data and use it more intelligently, they can build towards a fully digital R&D capability. This will cut development times, improve and retarget products and even lead to new breakthroughs. The companies that do this well will be the ones who still make the list of the world’s biggest companies in ten years’ time.

With so much at stake, R&D needs to be done right – and at the heart of digital R&D is data.



5 Entrepreneurship Truths Nobody Tells You About

There’s no denying that entrepreneurs are the new rock stars. We are bombarded with exciting tales of overcoming adversity on the road to success and the message is often that you too could quit your day job, launch a successful venture and reap the multi-million-dollar rewards. Here’s a reality check.

The fact is that three out of four venture-backed startups fail. Why? Because founding a company is harder than most of us imagine. Behind the glamorous image of entrepreneurship lies a rollercoaster of epic highs and crushing lows that can produce great rewards, but also negatively impact your relationships, quality of life and even your health.

To give first-time founders an insight into what they can really expect, here are five realities I wish I knew when I began building my own business.

You’re only as good as the people around you

It’s a common belief that the founder of an organisation is its wise chief navigator who single-handedly steers the way to success. I found this to be a gross misconception. If a startup business is to flourish, the founder must set their sights on gathering the right people around them, as you can’t always be the smartest person in the room.

This might sound like an obvious statement to make, but it can be surprisingly difficult for a founder to hand over control. Assembling a strong team requires humility: the founder must accept that their skills have limits and recognise where they need to add the abilities of others. When I launched my company at the age of 25, it quickly became clear that while I had bucket loads of ambition, I needed a great management team and guidance from experts. Not only did I hire a management team of people who are all my professional seniors, I also quickly onboarded advisers with 20+ years worth of advertising technology, telecoms and business experience. The move paid off; my company grew quickly and many of my mentors later became my investors (and some even board members).

Pragmatism over idealism (almost always)

Founders are often idealists by nature. We start our own ventures because we want to solve problems we see in the world and, fuelled by the entrepreneurial fairy-tales that are so prevalent in today’s society, it often seems like creating the ideal company that runs just as planned should be achievable.

But perfection isn’t a realistic goal. Indeed, it’s highly likely that many of our best-laid-out plans will go awry somewhere along the line. A project you’ve always wanted to implement and spent 100 hours per week developing may turn out to be untenable. A friend who stepped in to fill a role might be the wrong fit for your firm. At such times, there’s no room for idealism — particularly when the situation hinders business prosperity.

To build a successful company, founders must be pragmatic: prepared to put emotions aside and change course, halt unfeasible projects after much blood, sweat and tears went into them, and make tough decisions. Although this sometimes means letting go of the original dream, a logical focus will likely propel company growth further than blind stubbornness.

The devil isn’t always in the detail

Quality is crucial to win customers and stand out against your competitors, yet it doesn’t follow that founders should try to preserve standards by acting as the main quality control checkpoint. While at first, you might be able to assess all operational elements — from customer emails to service delivery — an overly detailed-focused approach will become impossible to sustain as the company expands.

I was heavily involved in creative output at the beginning of my startup journey. As a former designer in the ad industry frustrated by restrictive banner formats on mobile, I wanted to design an experience of mobile ads that utilise lock-screens within a non-disruptive experience to the consumer. As our client base increased, so did business areas demanding my attention; be that strategy, shareholder management, or revenue flow. I just didn’t have the capacity to oversee each detail anymore and, consequently, had to hire and trust in a skilled team of experts to keep the quality bar high. If you build the right workforce, it’s important to have faith in them and let them shoulder their areas of responsibility, even if it doesn’t always end up exactly as you imagined.

Everything else comes second

It’s common knowledge that establishing a new business will disrupt your personal life, but I believe the full extent of this disturbance is less widely acknowledged. Firstly, it’s not unlikely that you will work many 16-hour days on zero salary, at least for the initial months, or even years. Secondly, you’ll definitely spend less time with your significant other, family and friends. Thirdly, you might need to eventually move country and leave your home network behind, which can be lonely at times, but helped once more by assembling a great team. Finally, it will rapidly become apparent that no one else is quite as dedicated to accomplishing your vision as you are. So, if you aren’t ready to give up a portion of your private life for the business, you may not be able to really make your entrepreneur dream happen.

It’s not for everyone (and that’s OK!)

There’s something very enticing about the thought of leaving the typical 9 to 5 routine and setting up as your own boss. Yet the actuality of entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. For those who understand and embrace the pressure, sacrifice and strain that come with starting a business, it is usually a rocky road to victory. For a large proportion of people, however, the harsh reality of going it alone can outweigh the benefits. And that’s ok, because what matters most is choosing a career you are comfortable with. If your health and happiness are in jeopardy, it might be time to re-evaluate which path you want to follow.

None of this, however, is to say that entrepreneurship is a bad route to take. There are many benefits to building a company from scratch; not least of which are the freedom to innovate and the ability to structure your time and focus. It’s just that the advantages usually get the most attention, while the less romantic side of entrepreneurship is left out of the spotlight. So, before they are drawn in by the glow, it’s imperative for prospective first-time founders to consider the less glamorous aspects of being an entrepreneur and ask themselves: is this really the right decision for me?



10 Innovative techniques to Bring Innovation in Business

Innovation in Business – We have heard of many major businesses and brands of yesteryear’s now reduced to non-entities. Hindustan Motors (HM) had monopoly in passenger cars till the 1980’s with its classic Ambassador reigning supreme on Indian roads. With the arrival of Maruti car and later on several new generation cars, HM lost out miserably. Likewise, Hindustan Lever dominated the washing powder market with its premium brand but Nirma came along with a more affordable product capturing the mass market and Hindustan Lever had to follow suit with a few lower priced offerings.

Nokia dethroned Motorola and other mobile phone manufacturers to number one position in 1998 but it lost out miserably to iPhone, Samsung, Sony Xperia and Motorola a decade later as it failed to update its Operating System Symbian while the whole world was moving to Apple Os or Google’s Android platform.

In today’s fast changing market where new entrants come with innovative technologies, market dominance is not for eternity for any company and they need to constantly innovate to retain their existing position.

Top 10 techniques Innovation in Business

Whether you are a start-up or an established firm, innovation is the key to success. Here are some techniques to keep the innovative spirit live in your organization and keep your market share intact.

  1. Be curious and gather more information

Market leaders can’t remain market leaders unless have the curiosity to learn, gather more information, identifies market trends, tries to spot new opportunities by looking at the competition. There must be a systematic way to gather information, analyse and apply them to business.

Having a good library, interaction with peers in workshops and conferences, trade meetings, seminars, having interaction with thought leaders will help the company keep abreast of what’s happening in their industry. An air conditioner (A/C) manufacturer Godrej entered the invertor A/c market a bit late compared to its MNC counterparts but innovated with a 5-star rated A/C which was developed in-house. It claims to have an Indian Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (ISEER) of 5.2 which is the highest in the industry. Godrej with a market share of 6% in A/Cs hopes to raise it to 9% with the innovative product.

According to David Dewolf, a contributor to, organisations focus more on developing products, technological expertise and big data but don’t spend energy on getting more information, identifying trends and forming conclusions. Therefore, vast amount of information and data needs to be collected and analysed by the organization and there should be a systematic procedure for this.

  1. Recognise innovation opportunities

Understand the pain points of existing customers with your products or with that of the competitors. If the industry is not satisfied with existing offerings, there is an innovation opportunity lying dormant. Therefore, every problem or crisis a product faces in the market is an opportunity to innovate and succeed. A stapler is a useful product to help hold your papers together but what if you have more than 12 papers to organize. Conventional stapler pins can’t hold more than a dozen papers. That’s when Accentra Inc, the Pennsylvania based office products company developed the PaperPro that helps to pin 60 papers together. The founder of the company, Todd Moses observed that there was no fundamental change in the product for the past 100 years and that prompted them to develop the new product  which is now selling millions of units per in more than 100 countries. PaperPro’s example is proof enough that consumers are looking for function and fashion in products they buy.

Uber is another success story that leveraged on the pain points faced by commuters and travellers in cities. Most often taxi cab users were charged more, service was poor and there was no reliability regarding arrival of the cab and their pricing. Uber revolutionized car rental or hire by hooking several thousand taxi owners to be part of the Uber network and charge only for the kilometres covered and not for the return trip. As they completed one assignment, the taxi cab drivers would soon get another enquiry thanks the GPS app installed in their mobile. It also made tracking of the trip and payments easier for Uber.

  1. Look broader, beyond industry for ideas

Most often the best ideas for innovation need not come from your own industry but from other industries. Henry Ford got the idea of a moving assembly line from the meat processing industry and that changed the whole dynamics of automobile industry not only by way of volumes but also in terms of deployment of labour.

PepsiCo was looking for a way to reduce its sodium content in its snack foods and got the solution from the medical industry. A group of researchers on osteoporosis (a condition that leads to deterioration of the bones) had created a low-sodium substance by breaking calcium into small particles, and enabling its re-growth. This technology gave the idea for Pepsi to implement them in their snack foods.

Likewise Proctor & Gamble found an anti-wrinkle solution from a polymer developed by a computer chip expert based in a European University.

Most often companies have succeeded in innovating with the in-house team and they have a bias against looking outward for solutions known by the term ‘functional fixedness’. The solution is to have an in-house innovation group that constantly scouts for ideas from other industry to be incorporated in their own domain.

  1. Foster an innovation environment

Does your business want to do the business the way it has always done. Or is it open to change. For example, a company that has always done the ‘brick-and-mortar’ business may lose out if the trend is changing to a mix of online business with in-store trading. If the top management is not open to change, it will percolate down the hierarchy. And innovative ideas won’t come up.

The innovation group must meet frequently, gather ideas and suggestions and have brainstorming sessions with it. If possible involve the entire team of workers as limiting it to a few people will limit the company’s ability to get support and new ideas from the entire talent pool as each individual has his own talent, ideas and experiences.

It is very important assign ownership for innovative ideas and their execution. Most often great ideas don’t go beyond brainstorming sessions as there is no proper follow-up or ownership within the organization.

If you don’t encourage innovation, the result could be losing out people who go on to innovate on their own and succeed. Brian Acton who had worked for Apple and Yahoo was denied jobs by Twitter and Facebook. He teamed up with Jan Koum, an engineer who had worked with him in Yahoo. They created Whatsapp that became a huge success that it was bought over by FB for $19 bn. Acton’s stake was just $3 bn at that time.

  1. Innovation need not be about products but workplace also

Most people think of innovation with respect to developing a new product but fail to recognize that better processes and practices within the organization can raise productivity and profits for the firm. A bad workplace atmosphere can lead to lower employee motivational levels and lower output for the firm. Google realized that workplace should not be filled with dull cubicles and walls.

Google offices have play areas, coffee bars, open kitchens, crèches, themed conference rooms, libraries and several other innovations with the objective of providing a happy environment to boost productivity. Pitney Bowes Credit Corporation redesigned their interiors to appear like a village which was calm and serene. This helped them break down barriers between people and hierarchies and fostered open communication. The company grew from strength to strength on the basis of innovative products developed as a result of better communication between employees.

  1. Run a contest, scout for ideas from colleges

The technology and management schools have incubators that help students to come up with project ideas from solar energy, to waste management to new products using robotic technology. Some companies run contests for the public or in professional colleges and offer monetary rewards. The best ideas can become be licensed and commercialized.

  1. Good ideas can come from the customers

By having an open communication with the customers, you can understand their pain points or dissatisfaction’s which could help you develop a better service or process. To begin with, there should be an understanding whether they really want a change in the product or service. Don’t innovate for the sake of innovation. Customer surveys, social media and market research would help reveal what changes are required by the customer.

  1. Be futuristic and have visionary attitude

Innovation thrives only in organisations that have a futuristic view and leaders should have a vision. In late 1970’s, Ken Olsen of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) was doubtful if household’s would buy personal computers. Now it is common place, and DEC is no more. It was acquired by Compaq and subsequently Compaq was acquired by HP. DEC promoter found home PC an impossibility. Sometimes, it requires courage to pursue ideas that look impossible or risky.

  1. Know how to deal with innovator’s dilemma

Many organisations face the prospect of launching a new product that is radically different from its existing offering but can’t abandon it. IBM’s mainstay was mainframe computers and even when it launched personal computers, it retained its strength in mainframes. Hindustan Lever that witnessed emergence of popular economy brand washing powders had to sustain its premium brand Surf even as it came up with lower priced offerings such as Wheel and Rin washing powders. Netflix changed its model of business from sending DVDs by post to streaming video to its subscribers without exiting from the business.

  1. Disruptive technologies and changing trends

When Google and other search engines implemented algorithm changes and took the focus away from key words that led to destruction of several websites which thrived on copying or rewriting content based on popular keywords. New technologies or process can be disruptive but ultimately it helps the mass consumer. Google’s effort was to ensure the best search results for the internet users while some disruptive technologies led to better convenience for consumers. Skype enabled long distance calls easier, iTunes gave a better choice over record stores and Craigslist offered a better alternative to classified ads.


There is a belief that innovation is for the start-ups and not for market leaders. However, it is far from true. Innovation can happen in any organization where there the cultural mindset is tuned to finding solutions to problems in a creative way. One way to learn how to innovate is by learning the lessons from leaders in the field. The Forbes list of innovative companies are drawn from technology, ecommerce, pharmaceuticals, automobile, food and beverages, consumer products, credit cards, IT industry and so on. They include small and big brands worldwide.

If the leadership and work culture is unsupportive, that is a barrier to innovation, according to IBM Global CEO study. Disruptive innovators have the qualities of associating, experimenting, questioning and networking on their new ideas. When there is an atmosphere of ‘fear’ in the company, innovation cannot take place as no leader will be willing to take any risks.

It has been proven that best performers in S&P 500 list have been consistently innovating since 2000 and they have not been much harmed by the technological disruptions and financial crisis that spelled doom for the average performers. When the top leadership shows passion and the courage to implement new ideas, they percolate down the organization.

There is no substitute for hard work and there’s no magic in innovation- it comes through sustained efforts, thinking and conceptualization. Organizations that are focused on the short term and pressure to show topline growth, more bothered about quarterly results may lose sight of the long term.

When managers are rewarded for their ability to innovate rather than running the show status quo and creativity is celebrated, results would be much better. Innovation is win-win for both the consumer and the industry.

Recommended Articles

Here are some articles that will help you to get more detail about the Innovation so just go through the link

  1. Why Innovation is The Most Critical Aspect of Big Data?
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  3. How to Conquer Fear Level & Get Ahead in Business?
  4. 8 Effective Ways How to Be More Innovative Every Day
  5. 7 Innovative  Techniques to Be a Successful Market Leader