Great Small Business Ideas to Start: User-centered innovation
If users are encouraged to devise new products and services, innovative new products can be developed quickly in a way that is highly effective and popular. This approach has been championed with great success by the Danish government.
The ﬁrst automated drug pumps and heart and lung machines were devised by doctors, not medical equipment companies; sports energy drinks were invented by sports enthusiasts before beverage businesses became involved. Increasingly it is users, not producers, who can make the best advances in innovation: inventing, developing, prototyping, and even producing products. Recent research suggests that as much as 70 percent of new product development fails because it does not adequately understand users’ needs.
Governments favor innovation because of the economic beneﬁts it provides, and in May 2006 the Danish government announced a national priority of “strengthening user-centered innovation.” This policy is pursued by encouraging a wide range of techniques, including research into issues such as ethnography, that enhance understanding of users’ needs, directly supporting user-centered innovations, and encouraging Danish business schools and ﬁrms to share best practice. According to Danish Minister of Science Helge Sander, the government’s focus on user-centered innovation is paying off.
The central theme is to ﬁ nd new, improved ways to connect directly with a shifting group of users when developing new products.
Good ideas can come from anywhere, and the six Rs approach is especially valuable for identifying opportunities for improvement.
Identify something you want to improve, and use the list below to generate ideas.
- Research: what can you learn from people or organizations that do this activity well?
- Reframe: what is a completely different way of thinking about this?
- Relate: what ideas can you borrow from another activity or ﬁeld?
- Remove: what can you eliminate?
- Redesign: what can you do to improve this activity, process, or procedure?
- Rehearse: what can you do to be certain you have a good idea? Consider the following actions to identify areas for improvement:
- Talk to people in other areas who deal with similar issues.
- Talk to other companies. Explore how things are done in another industry or country, and think about ideas you can borrow, adapt, or combine.
- Talk to creative people who know nothing about the area but who may have different perspectives.
- Gather a group together to brainstorm ideas.
Finally, it is important to provide a clear focus, otherwise innovation can drift or move in circles. Ensure that innovations are realistic, and plan the implementation of new ideas; innovations often fail because of poor planning or execution.