For the complete original article on The Independent go here. An edited excerpt follows:

All businesses need fresh ideas to stay competitive.
by Gareth Chadwick

Ideas and innovation are fundamental to a successful economy.
They provide growth and the dynamism to keep the commercial engine racing onwards and upwards.
They are regarded as the cornerstone of economic development.

Businesses now have to:
–innovate more quickly,
–generate ideas more regularly and
–commercialize them more effectively.

Teaching people how to use their brains in order to generate more ideas is a question for philosophers and psychologists, not business people. But just because the mental process of creating an idea can’t be taught, it doesn’t mean that the whole process of innovation has to be left in the lap of gods.

Alan South, European head at innovation consultants IDEO in London, highlights three stages in the process of generating ideas and turning them into viable projects. By managing the different stages, he suggests that enterprises can better stimulate and encourage new ideas and create a commercial climate in which innovation can flourish.

Insights: the fuel for innovation as they spark off the creative process and form the context out of which ideas are generated.

Using that insight to actually generate ideas: thinking creatively about what you want to achieve and coming up with all sorts of different ways of trying to achieve it, most of which will be discarded at a later stage, but some of which will work.

Getting an idea through an organisation: through various investment gateways and successfully out into the market.

Observe and empathise with the customers and end-users.
Where are the problems that need solving.
Where is the creative energy best applied.
Not just coming up with the solutions, but working out what needs to be addressed.

Here, smaller business have an advantage:
–closer to their customers,
–have fewer cutomers and
–less complex in terms of internal organisation.
But on the other hand, they have less room for risk.

Creating the right environment for innovation is a means of stimulating the flow of ideas. It could literally be changing the physical office environment in order to stimulate more innovative thinking, or it could be changing the cultural environment in which people work to encourage them to be more creative.

Dedicated project rooms: one method of stimulating creativity. Rather than having project material in binders and boxes, filed away by people’s desks, by creating an environment where people can come and work on the project with all the information and pictures and ideas relating to it all around them, they will be more easily inspired to come up with new thinking.

However, the idea is only a small part of the innovation process. Equally crucial is the ability to commercialise the idea.

Most business failures are not due to a lack of ideas, but due to a failure in the commercialisation and implementation of those ideas. Knowing how to commercialise an idea means:
–researching the market,
–the right pricing strategy,
–the right team and
–thorough testing and prototyping of the idea before it ever gets to market.

This is one of the main focuses of all IDEO projects. It is an incredibly important part of the process of getting ideas out of the door. By visualising and prototyping a project, it comes to life and helps people buy into it. A second issue is that the final quality of a product or service is directly proportional to the quality of the approach to prototyping.

Getting the right team involved can also make or break the commercialisation of an idea. There needs to be a level of awareness that once it has been developed to a certain stage, a project may be best commercialised by a different team to the one which initiated it.

Above all, it is about being prepared to fail. Encouraging creativity means accepting that not all the ideas will work, but criticising them if they don’t is a sure way of discouraging future innovation.

The article further goes on to mention the successful business launch of Kitchen Gurus.