What's Your Innovation?

Avatar chose 3D. Do you know what trends you can seize upon?

By: Chia-Li Chien | Published 03/24/2010

The recent worldwide success of the movie Avatar is not a coincidence. It's an example of an industry innovating in a changing business climate. Given the fact that movie theaters are competing with the convenience of watching a DVD at home or watching movies online, the innovative 3D experience contributed to the success of this movie.

Small businesses lead the U.S. in innovation on products and services. However, we don't have the financial backing to invest in research and to innovate new products or services. Instead, we watch trends carefully, discover problems and provide solutions to capture the window of opportunity.

In his 2006 book Extreme Future, James Canton identified many trends for us to capture. In my February 2010 SRI Business Retreat, I shared Canton's future index of 2025. Certainly there are tons of opportunities for all of us. I was surprised that none of the 53 business owners who attended my retreat knew about this index.

As an entrepreneur, how do you put yourself ahead of the curve to capture these wonderful opportunities? I know for sure why you don't. Because you are too busy chasing your next customers, taking orders, signing contracts, dealing with employees and team situations, maintaining positive cash flow, etc. You have so much going on in your life that you don't pay attention to what's going in the world, let alone try to capture these opportunities to create wealth for you and your business.

Not to worry, David Pensak already put the secret to innovation in his latest book Innovation for Underdogs. He provided steps to help you successfully introduce your new product or service. There are many types of innovation, according to Pensak, but the one I use the most is the "business model" innovation or what I like to call reconceptualizing your business. Strategically, you want to make sure your business model can create a sustainable economic engine so you can systematically increase the value of your business and create wealth for yourself.

Most entrepreneurs focus on the product or service innovation. The key is to package it through your business model. Here is the list of things to consider when you go through the innovation process:

1. Choose quality or convenience, but not both. For example, when iPhone first came out it was high-priced, high-quality and not readily available. Apple plays the quality axis. Walmart or Amazon are examples of high convenience, and people are willing to pay for it. You can learn more about quality/fidelity and convenience in the book Trade-Off by Kevin Maney.

2. Strategically deploy pull marketing to distribute your product or services. Identify your market makers and deploy pull marketing early. You can find details in my previous column, "Are You Leveraging Pull Marketing Yet?" or in the book Midas Marketing by Rob Slee.

3. Package your product or service to four or five niches. There are many ways to define niches. A professional services company, for example, could provide consulting services specifically geared to health care, utilities, technology and government.

4. "Pay attention to tension!" This is one of my favorite quotes from T. Napier of the Tension Management Institute. Your customers or clients are telling you where their tension is. Identifying the problem is the first step of innovation, and the way to do that is to pay attention to where your customers' or clients' tension lies. Ask your customers or clients directly.

Avatar focused on the quality/fidelity axis of 3D when the project started. Director James Cameron certainly is paying attention to the movie theaters' losing battle with DVDs. But in my opinion, only 1 percent to 2 percent of business owners knows intuitively what to do, as Cameron did.

You might have a business coach guiding you and holding you accountable. But do you have someone to help you reconceptualize your business model? Do you have someone helping you strategically implement these niches, innovative products or services? It's time to get serious about that, because you don't want to miss your window of opportunity to create wealth from your business.


Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; helps women entrepreneurs to convert their business into meaningful personal wealth.  She is the author of Show Me The Money and columnist for WomenEntrepreneur.com & Fox Business online.   She is available for consulting, speaking engagements and workshops.  She can be reached at www.chialichien.com or jolly@chialichien.com.


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