This is is part of my live-learning series! I will be updating this post as I continue through my journey. I apologize for any grammatical errors or incoherent thoughts. This is a practice to help me share things that are valuable without falling apart from the pressure of perfection. 

“Innovate or die”

Starting off with another disclaimer. I am not an expert innovator. Perhaps I dream to be. But, I find innovation a challenging task. 

The reason it is most challenging is that we are in a structured world. For many of us in the West, that is a capitalism-driven structure. This means that innovation is not just about creating something completely novel. It is about generating something that solves big and painful enough problems that people will value it.

This is a constant conflict in my life. I have this optimistic, imaginative brain that constantly fires ideas at rapid speeds. I have no idea where most of these ideas come from. As a business owner, I’ve been on an exploratory journey with those ideas and if they will produce value. Some of them I have gotten right. Some I have gotten wrong. Many, I still don’t know.

I will continue to dream. I will continue to iterate. In this post, I ask myself and I ask you how to innovate. And, not just how to innovate, but how to successfully innovate.

Without further ado, here are a few thoughts on how to innovate:

Validate

Guilty as charged for not following this. Luckily, a few years into the Speak Ai journey, we had the wonderful Leon Li temporarily join our team and “ruthlessly” (his words not mine) uncover the lack of validation we had done. 

Here Vatsal and I were, generating ideas in the basement of Innovation Works without any user research, without paying customers, and without proven expertise that should give us the confidence to do that.

We built a product that worked technically and functionally but missed out on so much along the way. We created bad UI/UX experiences, created technical debt, and stacked our platform with features. 

Although we have been right on a lot of things, so much extra work could have been avoided if we had done the first steps of validation properly. We know we are not alone in this and take solace in that. 

Pay Attention To Macro-Trends

There are a few big ones right now we think about all the time. This includes remote work, content creation, artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency, generative artificial intelligence, speech-to-text, and natural language processing. 

All of these may seem competitive and saturated, but we are still in the early stages of these trend’s lifecycles. If you can understand the macro-trends of the world and have even a somewhat accurate glimpse of what the future may look like, you can then align yourself and your work along with it.

Google Trends is a really interesting way to dig into this. So is SEMrush. A new favourite is Exploding Topics.

My word of caution is to not focus on trends that will be temporary. Look at ones that you believe have legs and will continue far into the future with rapid growth. 

Look At The Big Players

You know who they are. Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook. Chances are that if they are making a bet on something, they have some data that shows them this is a worthwhile investment.

I could of course be wrong and they could just have the resources to explore, but I doubt that a bit. And, chances are, if they invest enough, even if they were wrong about the data, they may have the ability to create the future with the work anyways. 

I especially look at what they are doing on an API level. We’ve seen incredible advancements in the technologies these companies offer. In our work at Speak Ai, it is obvious that they will continue to invest in speech-to-text and natural language processing. While some of these services seem still left to developers now, they will be increasingly commodified and democratized by both them and the companies leveraging those technologies in their own businesses. Their amount of data will continue to grow, optimize their systems, and bring in new customers. Rinse and repeat.

Tie Innovation To Business Outcomes

I almost hate writing that. But, if you’re in business, guess what? Businesses want to increase revenue, improve the value of their company, save time, decrease costs, and improve productivity. While innovation for innovation’s sake is a thing to pine for, unless you can tie innovation to business outcomes then it is likely to fail. Now, there are edge cases where venture capital bullies companies through to “success” with no profitability because of a novel idea, or something wins out of pure entertainment, but these are insignificant compared to the doors that have been closed down because no problem was being solved. 

With innovation, there should be some measurable goals of success. Otherwise, the exploratory journey you are on to transform your company could be a journey off a cliff. 

Some Resources

How to Plan for Your Company’s Future
The Future of the Business Plan
10 Tips for Planning the Future of Your Small Business – Small Business Trends
how to innovate – Google Search
21 Great Ways to Innovate | InnovationManagement
If You Want To Innovate, Learn These 9 Rules
The eight essentials of innovation | McKinsey
Innovation – How to generate ideas? | BDC.ca
How to Innovate: 15 Steps (with Pictures) – wikiHow
You Need an Innovation Strategy
The 5 Requirements of a Truly Innovative Company
How to Innovate in Business – [ IMPORTANT TIPS ] SmallBusinessify.com
Use innovation to grow your business
7 Sure-Fire Steps to Innovative Thinking and Doing

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