Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a followerSteve Jobs

How many times have you heard someone say they thought of a brilliant idea while in the shower? Or while having drinks with a friend? Or in the middle of helping their kids with algebra homework?

Okay, maybe not that last one—let’s face it, algebra takes a good amount of concentration, and doesn’t leave a lot of room for daydreaming—but the takeaway here is that inspiration can strike when you least expect it. And inspiration leads to innovation, and innovation is what’s going to take your new product to the top.

But just what does it mean to innovate?

Are we talking an entirely new product, something never-before-seen on a store shelf? Or do you mean innovation in the technical sense—new packaging that is eco-friendly, more conducive to storage, or a whole new size offering? Maybe you’re talking about innovation in terms of line extension—why yes, the market is salivating for queso-flavored pretzels and lavender-flavored snack cakes.

Whatever the innovation you have in mind, embrace it. And in those moments when you doubt your idea—and everyone has those moments—don’t let go. Think back to your initial inspiration, and walk it through to the end. See where the idea stops—because that could be 100 miles from where you started, or it could be the exact opposite of where you started, but what you have as the end result might be even better than what you got from your original inspiration.

“Think back to your initial inspiration, and walk it through to the end.”Because that’s the thing—“inspiration” and its partner “innovation” are flexible, they’re malleable. They are there for the taking, and if you listen to them, and follow them, your best ideas and concepts will rise and grow. Inspiration and innovation don’t always make sense, in fact, they rarely do, but the outcomes can be beautiful. Look at RangeMe’s founder, Nicky Jackson—her daughter had eczema, which was the inspiration to develop a lotion with a local chemist (innovation). That led to RangeMe, and all the things that go along with it, including this blog, and potentially your product getting into the hands of retailers across the country.

The other thing to keep in mind when developing your inspiration into an innovation is that as wacky or strange or untenable as your idea may seem—you won’t know until you try it. And consumers won’t know that they need your product until you put it in front of them. Did you know that you needed a device that half the size of a deck of cards to store all of your music so you can listen to it on the go? You did once the iPod hit the market. Innovation shows us exactly what we didn’t know we were looking for.

So hop in the shower. Pour yourself a double. Open yourself up to be inspired and use that inspiration to innovate, and see where it all takes you.

But I still say stay away from the algebra.

Innovation + Inspiration

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