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Peter Drucker said ‘Business has only two functions innovation and marketing’ – marketing is a well understood but innovation remains mysterious; where do we find great ideas for our business?

For small businesses to thrive you need to be different from your competitors, to stand out in some way that creates value to a certain group of customers, a sustainable competitive advantage. The question I am often asked is how, and the key is innovation, finding new ways to change the competitive ‘playing field’. Whether you are looking to create a completely new business, a new product or service or to find a novel way to deliver an existing offer to customers, coming up with ideas can be one of the biggest challenges for small business owners.

There is an air of mystery around great ideas, where a business owner goes off to a retreat and is able to generate fantastic concepts from thin air (Bill Gates was well known for his ‘think week’, when he would spend time alone at his cabin in a forest and return with a plan for the next big thing) – whilst it is true that when our conscious mind is busy with some day to day tasks (taking a shower, walking the dog or driving) the subconscious mind can work on those ideas that have been lurking at the back of your mind. The reality is that good ideas are rarely a thunderbolt from the blue, and you should start by looking at what already exists and consider ways to do things differently.

One way to do this is to utilise the SCAMPER approach as Janet Doran asserts in her latest blog which you can read here.

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