Roger La Salle is the king of innovation. The founder of ‘La Salle Matrix Thinking’ believes there isn’t a product in the world that can’t be made better with just a little bit of thought.
Ahead of speaking at the Creative Innovation 2013 conference in Melbourne (November 27-29), he reveals to SmartCompany some top tips for how businesses can innovative and become more competitive – with little effort.
1. Understand innovation
La Salle says people confuse innovation with creativity.
“Creativity is confined more to the arts and performing arts and painting and music,” he says.
“Innovation is about business, I talk to people about how to build a business using the process of innovation and creation in terms of opportunity.
“Innovation is best defined as change that adds value. There is no product or service you cannot change.
“If you give people the right tools to think with they will come up with a new idea.”
2. Don’t wait
He argues that the most important thing is to do something rather than sit and wait for an idea.
“The life expectation of businesses in 1920 was 65 years; today it is less than 10. If you are not constantly moving yourself into a better place, someone will come and take over for you.”
3. Encourage the team to think
“The first thing I ask is: is the innovation coming from the top?” he says. “Do you have a methodology that people can use?”
He says that in many small businesses the ideas all come from the owner, but that is not sensible. Rather he thinks the people who are building and using the products are the perfect people to be innovating.
“Steve Jobs was an astonishing innovator. When he announced he was retiring, his share price fell 6%.
“Why? Because all the ideas come from him and they weren’t pushed down in the business.”
He says it’s important to set up a small innovation team, or if it is a big company then have two or three teams.
“Once a fortnight say, I am going to provide lunch and I want you to spend half-an-hour innovating our product or services.
“At the end of the year, we’ll have a competition and the winning team gets a weekend away with their partners. It is so simple, it costs almost nothing and people love it.”
4. Don’t fear change
People can be afraid of change – so the best way innovate new products is to find something other people are doing and do it better.
He gives the example of the simple bicycle bell – and asks: what can you do better?
Adding a light is a simple suggestion.
“You’ve just put a light in a bicycle bell – I could do that for 30 cents. I’ve doubled the value of my bicycle bell for 30 cents.
“There is no product in the world that you can’t do this with.”
5. Lack of time is no excuse
He says time-poor small business owners have to realise the value of innovation and prioritise it.
“If they don’t do it they are going to go broke.
“Most of my ideas come at random when I’m in the shower. All I have to do is look around and see what people are doing and wonder if I could do that better or differently. There is always a way.”
6. Look to the innovation leaders
He says to look at the companies that are leading the way in innovation for inspiration.
“The banking industry is trying to be innovative, but they are having a lot of trouble because they are afraid to fiddle with their software, it is a huge risk,” he says.
“Most manufacturing now is done from overseas so we are getting great innovations from people like Apple, Nokia and Samsung.
“And we’re seeing marvellous innovations coming into cars now – anti-collision devices, ABS braking … anti-collision radars … there is nothing we can’t innovate.”