One way to bring new ideas into your business—whether for new product or service development, new sales or marketing approaches, hiring practices, operational strategies, or other business activities—is to hold a focus group to collect ideas and information. But while such groups are effective in generating new ideas, you should be aware that the ideas and solutions they yield may not be particularly innovative.
That is because most business owners are comfortable leading focus groups that consist of people they know as area experts, along with current customers and suppliers, and employees and other insiders. These participants can tell you much about what you are already doing in your business, how it can be improved, and what to consider going forward. But if you want to get highly innovative ideas, try to invite people representing groups and organizations outside the scope of your business at the present time. For example, what groups would you like to sell your products and services to, but haven’t been able to penetrate yet? With what companies would you like to form a strategic alliance, but haven’t contacted yet? Think about the activities in which your business is not yet engaged, but which all indicators suggest you ought to be thinking about in the next six months to two years. Broaden the sources of information at your next brainstorming session, and use this feedback to carve your innovation strategy.
Professor of Management
Director, Center for Creativity & Innovation
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