Breakaway Innovation and the Vital Idea Ecosystem

“We need to grow our business and innovate ahead of the competition,” is today’s common refrain in a hyper-competitive world that is enabled through accelerating technology advancement. At Sparxoo Agency, yesterday’s call to elevate brand positioning is being replaced with tomorrow’s call to create the future through brand and product innovation. Innovation is seen as a key source of competitive advantage, and a way to develop or extend customer relationships through WOW products and experiences.

Recently, we have observed companies grabbling with the innovation challenge and have witnessed their shortcomings in conceiving of and vigorously pursuing breakaway innovation. A key bottleneck: the lack of outstanding ideas that can fill the gap of blockbuster new products. Their most common substitute: a lot of small bets that are generally destined for mediocrity or failure.

Wouter Koetzier said it best, “The best ideas rarely appear out of thin air. The only way to come up with the best innovative ideas – consistently and repeatedly – is to make innovation an essential part of how you do business, of your strategy.” Indeed, according to an Accenture report in 2011, just one in every 1,000 innovative ideas actually proves successful. Innovation requires higher quality ideas, which is why we have developed Sparxoo’s Breakaway Innovation process which emphasizes The Vital Idea Ecosystem.

The above illustration outlines the innovation process. The remainder of this post introduces the first step (Mission). We will follow-up with details, tips and suggestions on the full breakaway innovation process on our digital and brand innovation blog.

Mission. The mission is akin to setting business goals and objectives. We choose to use the term “Mission” because this implies there is more purpose to innovation. During the Mission stage of innovation, top management identifies market/target groups for innovation, criteria for success, and a core team to accomplish goals. Top management should have a vested interest in a successful project outcome. To set business goals and strategic guidelines for innovation, start with strategic questions such as:

  • What’s the business problem?
  • How is the business or market changing?
  • What is the potential opportunity?
  • What will it take to achieve success?

The pursuit of breakaway innovations requires breakthrough-specific capabilities and significant strategic commitment . Breakaway Innovation is transformational, resulting in the emergence of a new state that is a radical reconceptualization of the mission, culture, and leadership for the organization, and can result in new-to-the-world products & services. We suggest a kickoff workshop in which all team members discuss common success factors in innovation (requirements of the innovation process) such as:

  • Core project team is assigned with strict deadlines
  • Fits organization’s overall goals
  • Differentiation (stands out in the market)
  • Getting customers to say “Wow” (very appealing to customers)
  • Financial opportunity (revenue and profit)
  • It is considered operationally feasible
  • Gathers its own internal support

Once the mission is set, we move into The Vital Idea Ecosystem, which is so named because new product success and failure is often decided before the new product project even enters the product development phase. Accordingly, we recommend emphasizing Inspiration, Ideation, and Prototyping.

Inspiration, step 2, is the foundation upon which ideation can flourish. The goal of the Inspiration step is to develop in-depth insight into what is moving your (potential) customers – their hidden needs – and what is driving markets inspires you to take the next step, to develop the foresight required to identify your future growth markets and products. Research has shown that a strong market orientation and superior skills in marketing research are associated with successful product innovation programs. That’s why we suggest prioritizing the customer for inspiration.

We also note that as technology allows manufacturers to deliver as much and often more functionality than the typical consumer can use, the bases of competition will change. Rather than compete on yet more features and functions we will see manufacturers compete even more on style, on design and on emotional connection, with approaches used in the luxury and fashion markets being increasingly adopted in more traditional sectors. (Read more)

From Inspiration, we move to Ideation (or Step 3), at the heart of innovation, which is why we’ll be dedicating a full follow-on blog post to this topic. For now, we’ll convince you to increase your attention to this step: a major benchmarking study undertaken by one of the authors reveals that only 19% of businesses have a proficient ideation front-end to feed their development funnel. (Read more)

If your team prioritizes innovation, we applaud you for recognizing the importance of innovation in gaining competitive advantage. For best results, prioritize ideation and embrace non-traditional methods to come up with ideas. The extra weeks and months of ideation (see 6 innovation exercises) can be the difference between pursuing a winner and a loser. More tips and insights to come in a follow–up post. Good luck as you ambitiously pursue breakaway innovation.

20 Greats Stats about Women in Business

J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Sheila Johnson, Meg Whitman, and Martha Stewart may seem different on the surface, but all of these leading ladies have persevered through the competitive, male-dominated business world. Leveraging their individual talents, these women have made considerable strides for up-and-coming females who are ready to emerge as business leaders and tycoons. In the spirit of “girl power,” here are 20 informative and inspirational statistics about women in business.

Women Ruling the Corporate World

1. In 2005, there were 7 CEO’s in Fortune 500. As of May 2011, there were 12 CEO’s in Fortune 500 companies.

2. An estimated $546 billion is spent annually on salaries and benefits by women-owned businesses.

3. Approximately 32% of women business owners believe that being a woman in a male-dominated industry is beneficial.

4. The number of women-owned companies with 100 or more employees has increased at nearly twice the growth rate of all other companies.

5. The vast majority (83%) of women business owners are personally involved in selecting and purchasing technology for their businesses.

Bridging the Gender Gap

6. The workforces of women-owned firms show more gender equity. Women business owners overall employ a roughly balanced workforce (52% women, 48% men), while men business owners employ 38% women and 62% men, on average.

7. 3% of all women-owned firms have revenues of $1 million or more compared with 6% of men-owned firms.

8. Female-owned family businesses are 1.7 times more productive than male-owned family firms.

9. Women business owners are nearly twice as likely as men business owners to intend to pass the business on to a daughter or daughters (37% vs. 19%).

10. Between 1997 and 2002, women-owned firms increased their employment by 70,000, whereas firms owned by men lost 1 million employees.

11. Women and men business owners have different management styles. Women are less hierarchical, may take more time when making decisions, seek more information, and are more likely to draw upon input from others – including fellow business owners, employees and subject-matter experts.

Pushing the Economy Female Forward

12. Almost all income growth in the United States over the past 15-20 years came from women.

13. There are an estimated 10.6 million women-owned businesses – up from 6.4 million almost twenty years ago.

14. One in five firms with revenue of $1 million or more is woman-owned.

15. Women owners of firms with $1 million or more in revenue are more likely to belong to formal business organizations, associations or networks than other women business owners (81% vs. 61%).

Female Trends in Business

16. Women business owners are philanthropically active: seven in 10 volunteer at least once per month; 31% contribute $5,000 or more to charity annually; 15% give $10,000 or more. Women business owners are more likely than men to serve in leadership positions in their volunteer pursuits.

17. Women-owned firms in the U.S. are more likely than all firms to offer flex-tie, tuition reimbursement and, at a smaller size, profit sharing to their workers.

18. High net worth women business owners and executives are active and generous philanthropists. Over half contribute in excess of $25,000 annually to charity; including 19% who give $100,000 or more.

19. 86% of women entrepreneurs say they use the same products and services at home that they do in their business, for familiarity and convenience.

20. Nearly 3/4 (72%) of women business owners have investments in stocks, bonds or mutual funds, compared to 58% of working women.

Women in business have drastically changed over the past 20 years. These statistics verbalize the fact that the male-dominated business landscape continues to change every day. More and more females are becoming self-made moguls. Women-owned firms are growing rapidly and greatly contributing to the income growth in the U.S. As the latest prevailing strength in small business ownership, women entrepreneurs are taking over and making the business world a whole lot more feminine.


Additional Resources:
Join the ranks of these dedicated women by earning a degree from an accredited online MBA program.

How to Design a Web Site

How to design a web site? That’s a common question as web sites are increasingly a central communication point to customers and prospects. When deciding how to design a web site, remember that great web design blends art, technology, and strategy, so it appeals to customers as both attractive and user friendly. Below, we have shared tips on how to design a functional web site that  encourages visitors to take action and makes your increases the impact of your online exposure.

• Design with purpose: The goals and objectives of your web site should be clearly understood before the design process begins. Determine the key actions that you want your user to take and the top messages that the user should come away with. Many web designers have general templates and layouts used across a variety of web sites. While this may make for an appealing display, templates don’t always work towards your goals. Create design elements with purpose for a more effective web design.

• Gain knowledge through example: The next facet of determining how to design a web site involves a bit of research. Discovering what your competitors, in addition to companies in other industries, are doing online is a productive method of gaining perspective and directing internal initiatives. Taking a step back and looking at a variety of templates and examples will inspire ideas, boost creativity, and guide your future web design.

• Aim for functionality without clutter: While design is certainly an important element of how to design a web site, functionality is king. Content should be clearly communicated, easy to access, readable, and straightforward. Use space wisely to display your content in a manner that gets attention and gets the message across. Your user should understand exactly what your site is about within seconds. The Murray & Murray web site is a prime example of a functional balance.

• Select the right color themes: Establishing a proper color palette for your web site is another chief feature in learning how to design a web site effectively. Color themes are an additional way to display your site’s purpose to the consumer. Often times, simplicity is the key to successful color themes, meaning less colors and more rationale. For instance, using bright, loud colors for an elementary school web site would probably attract the appropriate audience. Further, creating a level on contrast between foreground and background will ease user navigation within your site. For inspiration, check out our free brand color palette tool.

• Use text wisely: Font size seems like a no-brainer; however, text matters and holds significant weight  your site’s communication. The default size for normal in-site text is 12pt. For practical purposes in web site design, font size should be readable, clear, and not strain the eyes. To that end, text weight is another factor critical to legible text. Make sure your text is bold enough to read fluidly, without bringing excess attention to itself (unless that is the intention). Lastly, line-height (the spacing between lines and paragraphs) must lend itself to easy reading and appealing display.

Your web site enables you to directly communicate with current and future customers. Our talented team of designers and programmers leverage current platforms to design dynamic web sites. To learn more about how to design a web site, contact the Sparxoo team for a free consultation.

Web Design & Development by Sparxoo Agency


Additional Resources:
Get hands-on learning experience with online web design classes.

Why Marketers Are Implementing Internet Video into Their Online Campaigns

Andy HavardBy Andy Havard, Marketing Executive
Andy is a Marketing Executive at Skeleton Productions, a UK based Internet video production company.With a network of 3,000 filmmakers, Skeleton Productions is able to deliver professional, engaging videos to clients around the world, to meet any need or budget.

Internet video appears to be taking over the World Wide Web these days. It’s being used by online markets through online ads, On Demand TV placements, social media promotions, and it’s being watched time and again on video sharing sites.  So, why are marketers implementing Internet video into their online campaigns? The following article addresses the four key reasons why Internet video is becoming such a prominent staple in the marketing arsenal of brands, businesses and bloggers.

Internet Video Is Popular
Internet video is one of the most popular forms of media on the web. In fact over 2 billion YouTube videos are watched every single day–that’s a staggeringly large viewership. Internet videos are actively sought after by online users, unlike the reels of TV ads so many of us channel hop to avoid. The reason for this is that Internet videos can be entertaining, informative and educational, which online users welcome into their daily Internet browsing activity. As a result Internet video can achieve brand awareness and generate website traffic without becoming sales platforms. The ability Internet video has to become a great marketing tool, yet avoid all standard ad format stigma, makes it incredibly viable as an online resource.

Internet Video Could Reach a Limitless Audience
One of the most impactful and powerful attributes of Internet video, is its ability to transcend an extraordinary amount of limitations. By nature an Internet video can be watched and received all across the world, surpassing the limits of regional and national marketing campaigns. Not only does it have the potential to reach a worldwide, universal audience, but its popular nature also allows it to go beyond target audience restrictions, too. For instance, if you share your Internet video on a social media website, you can of course showcase it to your Friends, Followers and Fans, but they can also share it to their social media audiences too, which were originally out of reach of your social media demographic. With Internet video being able to squeeze through such boundaries, its content can realistically be viewed by an almost limitless online audience.

Internet Video Can Increase Search Engine Rankings
Internet marketers using Internet video may be well aware of its popularity on the web, but may not have realised the potential it has to boost the search engine rankings of brands, businesses and blogs. Google’s introduction of universal searches in 2007 has meant that over the past four years YouTube videos, Vimeo videos and the majority of all Internet videos can be found on Page 1 of Google. The power such a search engine ranking could give to improving conversion rates, improving website traffic and generating higher levels of brand awareness online is astounding. Being able to infiltrate the search engine rankings in this way, provides a quick shortcut for highly competitive keywords and phrases, which could benefit anyone.

Internet Video Is Budget Flexible
Any marketing strategy is potentially viable and impressive, but marketing approaches can swiftly become lacklustre when they cost a fortune to implement. Perhaps what you could call the ‘beauty’ of Internet video is its ability to be extremely budget flexible. Internet videos can take so many forms whether it’s ‘how-to’ videos, viral ads, training videos, video blogs or huge corporate blockbusters, and it is possibly the only marketing approach where cost doesn’t affect impact. A simple webcam video made at home can be just as effective as a five-day Hollywood film shoot in the Maldives. Due to technological advances, the majority of videos today can be created and commissioned very cheaply, making them within the grasps of brands, businesses and blogs of all niches and sizes.

By understanding the benefits of marketing using Internet video campaigns, and utilising the power it has to further and progress marketing goals and targets, can really help to make a huge impact to the online presence of brands, businesses and blogs. Internet video’s ability to boost conversion rates, increase website traffic, generate a higher search engine ranking, and spread brand awareness to a staggeringly large online audience, is the very reason why marketers are implementing internet video in their online campaigns.