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It’s not enough to be an entrepreneur in today’s business world. Everyone wants to be an innovator. Innovation is the key to more than just business success. It can lead to headlines, huge valuations, the respect of your peers, and so much more.
Not everyone is an innovator, though. Innovation brings real disruption to the business world, changing the way consumers behave and what they expect. It revolutionizes the way companies do business and constantly pushes the envelope. Whatever the result, the path to innovation lies through these four stages.
#1 Ideation: Identify Opportunities for Innovation
At the core of innovation is discovery. First, you identify a problem, and then you come up with a solution for it. Often it takes real industry experience and expertise before you can even identify a problem worth changing.
Take for example industry maverick and thought leader Regan McGee, the founder of Nobul. Nobul is a tech-enabled solution to a long-standing problem in the real estate industry: homebuyers and sellers often don’t know what they’re getting when they work with a real estate agent.
The platform changes the way the business works. On Nobul, real estate agents send proposals to prospective clients outlining their fees and the services they provide for that fee. Consumers see verified reviews and even transaction history. It’s an elegant, tech-enabled solution to consumer frustrations and changing expectations, and it puts the onus on agents to justify their fees.
#2 Analysis: Prioritize Opportunities
Your time and resources are limited. You need to prioritize the opportunities you’ve identified so that you have a refined, focused plan for innovation. Limit yourself to tackling two or three of the main issues you’ve identified and develop an overarching identity around them.
You can then take this hypothesis forward into the testing phase. You need a clear vision and intent if you want to successfully test your solutions.
#3 Test: Develop and Screen Your Solutions
The next phase is to develop and test your solutions. During this process, you’re building your solution, trying different tools and approaches, analyzing data and consumer feedback, and addressing the potential risks that could come up with the new product or service.
The development and testing phase is where brilliant ideas come up against practical solutions and technical ability. This is where your experience, talent, and knowledge, as well as that of your team, will be challenged the most. It’s where you discover whether you have what it takes to be a true innovator or not.
#4 Market: Commercialize Your Product or Solution
Finally, there’s the process of taking your solution to market and introducing it to consumers. Start with a marketing plan that will introduce consumers to your product or solution. Your big innovation will have to be ready to launch, with a clear use case you can present to clients and/or consumers.
Once your innovation is on the market, your big idea has turned into a business, and all of the challenges of running your business and being an entrepreneur will come into play. First, it all starts with innovation.