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Innovation Blitz: Using Your Strengths to Your Advantage

Contracts are going to Asia, customers have fallen on hard times and sales have taken a hit.Now, more than ever, you need to change the way you look at doing business - ask hard questions and get good answers. Simply, it's time to innovate.

Today production of goods overseas is easier, cheaper and more profitable than it was even a few years ago.Everything is changing rapidly.For any company, taking a long, hard look in the mirror can be revealing. You may find that you have undervalued a particular strength. Or perhaps your outlook is firmly lodged in the glory days of the past.

Innovation can take your company to a new level. But how can a company innovate and look at itself differently when it's difficult to pull yourself out of the day-to-day grindWMEP has created a way through its Strategic Repositioning Process.

Strategic Repositioning is the process of expanding the focus of your business from a product-only focus, to becoming a provider of total solutions.It is a process that helps you understand your competencies, identify potential products and services that fit those competencies, and develop new products, new services and new markets.The result is an improvement process that expands your horizons, your customer base and your ability to prosper.

A key element of strategic repositioning is -- the Innovation Blitz (IB). By taking stock in what a company does well and thinking creatively, the Innovation Blitz helps companies discard their limitations and discover new opportunities for serving new and old customers.

One local company confidently set a 20% growth goal this year despite their 80% market share within their industry. How do they plan to achieve thisThey choose to continually help them find new markets, new uses for their strategic competencies and new product ideas.

Step One of the Innovation Blitz: Prepare Yourself to Think Differently

The innovation process begins with the formation of an Innovation Blitz team. Your IB team typically consists of 12-15 people both from inside and outside your company. External participants are often chosen from non-competing firms, customers, or vendors or from creative disciplines to bring a mix of thinking and experience to the process.

The team then identifies the company's strategic competencies. Team members list the company's strengths and then ask three key questions about each strength:

"Does this strength have value to your customer"
"Does it differentiate your company from the competition" and
"Is it difficult to copy"
If a competency meets all three criteria, then it is considered a strategic competency. All the identified competencies are carried forward into Step Two.A matrix to facilitate this process is available at https://www.wmep.org/contactus.html click on the free assessment link.

Step Two: The Blitz Event - A Day for Ideas

The full day of innovative thinking begins with a tour of your plant.The tour gives the outsiders an opportunity to form a more accurate picture of the strategic competencies of the organization. It also lets the insiders look at the company from a broad, fresh perspective, rather than from their own single area of expertise.

Next, the team does some "innovative thinking prep work" to help them frame their thinking. The members discuss the concept of paradigm shift to help them understand that they may hold pre-conceived notions about the way the company and the business world work. This discussion also provides an opportunity to reinforce and stimulate creativity - a necessity to a successful Blitz.

The bulk of the day is spent generating creative ideas that answer the question: "What products, services, or value-added services could we deliver with these competencies that we're not already delivering. Several hours are spent capturing ideas in a group setting.This facilitated process can stimulate hundreds of creative ideas.

Innovation Blitz isolates the ideas that, for one reason or another, may seem unpractical today. Sometimes it is those "far-fetched" or "wacky" ideas that hold the key to new markets or customers that at one time you would not have considered.

Step Three - Set Priorities for Change

The third step involves the identification, prioritization, and implementation of the best ideas. Once these ideas are prioritized, your company can move forward with the Strategic Repositioning Process with an action plan.Components of this plan include:

Establish an R&D team, again including external people, to sort and pick the best ideas.Note that this team may already be in place within your company; ideally it is a permanent team that continually seeks innovation and improvement.

Evaluate the potential of the best ideas within your business. Research your options and set priorities.

Plan the implementation of the chosen innovations, defining the changes that would be required.

Market the new innovations.

Continually monitor your company and the market to seek new opportunities.
According to Joel Barker, creator of the best-selling video series "Discovering the Future" when you ask yourself what is "... impossible to do in your business today, but, if could be done, would fundamentally change it for the better", you open up a universe of opportunity.

The Innovation Blitz can help you look with a new perspective at the universe of opportunities that exist for you and your business.And following the Blitz with further strategic repositioning can help your business survive and thrive into the future.

Copyright 2003 by WMEP.org

WMEP provides technical expertise and hands-on implementation assistance to small and midsize manufacturing firms on advanced manufacturing technologies and business practices includinglean manufacturing, ISO, value chain management, and strategic repositioning services for manufacturers and manufacturing facilities located in Wisconsin.

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