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A Small Businessman's Guide to Innovating Like the Pros

By Scott D. Anthony

One of the fundamental errors many would-be innovators make is assuming that the hardest part of innovation is coming up with an idea. That's actually the easy part. No matter how much work you have done, no matter how careful your analysis, the only thing you can be sure of is that your first idea is wrong in some meaningful way. Ask any venture capitalist or successful entrepreneur. They will tell you the gulf between the first idea and the right idea is often wide. Or listen to the words of the great American philosopher and boxer Mike Tyson: "Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face.

"Like it or not, you are going to be punched in the face.Like it or not, you are going to be punched in the face. So how can you take your punches yet keep standing? One tendency can be to turn innovation into an academic exercise. That is, to develop even richer PowerPoint slides, create more refined financial projections, and develop even finer customer segmentation models. Unfortunately, analysis has sharply diminishing returns, especially when you are targeting new or nascent markets that are notoriously difficult to measure.

The best businesses emerge out of trial-and-error experimentation. That doesn't mean that innovation needs to be random. Instead the best innovators design and execute smart strategic experiments to address their biggest risks. The process is nothing more complicated than what you learned in high school science class: Develop your hypothesis and then go run the experiment.

Read the full article on Fast Company

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After a successful turnaround, we needed to focus on innovation and growth. Not only did the managers get a chance to develop new skills, they generated a set of high-potential ideas, some of which we ended up commercializing.

Joyce Petrella
Head of Executive Education, Aetna

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