8 Innovative Ways To Spark The Next Million-Dollar Business

by Brian Hanley

Tired of hearing entrepreneurs say, “We’ve always done it this way”? Check out the following innovative methods to bring about a creative spark:

1. For the love of Steve Jobs, stop creating products and services from scratch.

Instead, resourcefully seek out innovative combinations of existing solutions, much like a talented author creates new meaning from old words.

The automobile didn't arise from thin air. On the contrary, it resulted as an amalgamation of two existing forms of transportation: the horse carriage and steam engine.

2. Use your skills and passions to your advantage.

Integrate three of your interests to see what inventive combinations you can generate. For example, I'm an entrepreneurial action sports and hip-hop enthusiast who films skateboarding videos while rapping about entrepreneurship.

3. Look to the natural world for inspiration.

George de Mestral invented Velcro after discovering that burrs of the burdock plant stuck to his dog's fur.

Moral of the story: de Mestral didn't draw his inspiration from a blank slate. Conversely, he redesigned an existing technology that Mother Nature crafted meticulously, long before his own earthly arrival.

4. Develop commercially viable solutions that address specific pain points.

Before haphazardly generating solutions to problems about which nobody cares, step back and ask yourself, “What pain point am I seeking to remedy?”

To their peril, entrepreneurs often neglect to evaluate customer and user pains. As a result, they make costly business decisions based on untested assumptions.

5. Realize that less is more.

Southwest Airlines saved $10 million in fuel expenses simply by installing lighter seats in its airliners.

Southwest developed what product designers call a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which contains all of the components necessary for functionality, but nothing more.

Consider French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's advice: "You know you've achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away."

6. Observe how others achieve high performance levels and imitate them.

At the risk of tooting Southwest's horn, the airline also cut operating expenses by reducing the amount of time that its aircrafts spent grounded when it adopted the same speedy refueling techniques employed by Formula One racers. Imagine how different practices that one field uses could solve problems in another industry.

7. Dare to be different and others will remember you.

Just think about the iPhone. Apple consigned Blackberry's hardware keyboard to oblivion by doing exactly the opposite of its competitor: designing a touch screen with fewer buttons.

Imagine a Blackberry, or any product for that matter, on Opposite Day. That's one of the most effective ways to differentiate your products. Define the attributes of an existing solution and reverse it. Whatever the competition makes, make the opposite.

*8. Infiltrate untapped market space.

In the 1980s, Cirque du Soleil reinvented the circus after being confronted with declining attendance.

Rather than enticing waning crowds of children with taller giants and faster fire jugglers, Cirque targeted an entirely new market segment.

In doing so, the business changed the circus game. It established uncontested market space by attracting affluent adults who were willing to pay a premium for performances of unrivaled proportions. Follow in Cirque's freakishly acrobatic footsteps.

*As the bestselling authors of “Blue Ocean Strategy” advise, avoid highly contested market space. Ignore the urge to fight for market share. In fact, to outperform your rivals, stop competing. Instead, focus on exploiting untapped market niches, making your rivals irrelevant and rendering their business models obsolete.

Change the game and never look back.

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