How to generate innovation?

We all get ideas, but do we capture them and do something with them.



Do you need to have a ‘big’ idea?

Clarence Ragan the Managing Director of Ford Tractors, was the first to teach me about the real power of generating big ideas. “You must have a big idea”, he told me, “one that the farmers and your team can understand instantly and one the competitors will find difficult to copy. It must have a ‘wow’ factor about it and if it is unique, then it will be powerful and very profitable”.


First, you have to have a big idea to help generate innovation

Having a big idea is now widely accepted, easily to talk about but difficult to find.

Although it is a bit ho-hum today, the first big idea I had was given to me by the local newspaper. It was to create a major supplement in the local paper, that would let people know we had started in a ‘big’ way. While I didn’t recognise it as a big idea at the time, it was and it certainly had people talking about this ‘new kid’ on the block.

The supplement was paid for in total by the machinery companies we represented with adds we asked them to place and the other 50% of the 16-page supplement was editorial which the paper helped us to write.


“Great execution is the ultimate differentiator”.  Margaret Molloy


The next big idea was to advertise on the TV every night of the week. Television was expensive even in a regional area, but my gut feeling was that it was the most powerful medium I could use because it was relatively new in the early 1970’s, our customers would be watching because of this and our competitors would not do the same thing.

We engaged a consultant to develop the adds we would use, as we wanted to make them different and to stand out so people would talk about us.  While it took a couple of years for the idea to become a reality, on the TV every night, it didn’t take too long before our sales started to increase exponentially.

Another big idea was simple. If most of the best agricultural machinery was made in the USA, then if I was to go and visit the manufacturers then I would come back with a bunch of good ideas that would give us a competitive advantage.

It cost a lot of money to spend two months in the USA travelling to 25 states, visiting machinery dealers and manufacturers, but it was well worth it. I arrived back in Australia with over 150 ideas, 70 of which were implemented within six months.

A more recent big idea came when I saw a few men cleaning up an old shed to start what is now known as a ‘men’s shed’. Ideas flooded my mind, here was a possible solution for lonely men, unemployed men, youth, men’s health, community development, the list went on. Today there are over 800 men’s sheds in Australia and much more around the world.


The ‘why’

It is hard to stand out from the crowd unless you create big ideas. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of customers and supporters and build a successful, growing and sustainable business. Why not become a thought leader in your industry or community?


How do you generate creative ideas for innovation?

Many big ideas come from our unconscious mind. But, like anything new, your idea will be of little value if it is not implemented.

Be like a policeman, learn to observe, learn to become aware. Ideas are everywhere for us all to see, but there are none so blind than those who fail to look around. Helen Keller was once asked, “what would be worse than being blind”? Her response, “To have sight but no vision”.

Feed your mind with information and knowledge and then find a nice place to relax, think and reflect on your situations and the possibilities you might have in front to you. Change the conversations you are having and the people you want to have them with.


“We never seem to have enough time to think things through, but we always have time to look for something new, something that will lead us to the Promised Land, again… and again… and again”. Peter Sergeant


Believe in yourself and your ideas. It is only natural to think that your idea is not new, or has already been done. Learn to be creative in your thinking, use others to help you unlock the creativity you already have.

Think outside the box, innovation is not common place. Take the blinkers off and look at the possibilities that might flow from your ideas, detach yourself from the obvious and look at how the idea can be adapted to a new situation.

Look for the ‘change engines’ in your marketplace. These are the things that help generate new ideas and new thinking.

  • Telecommunications.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT).
  • Social Media.
  • Big Data.
  • Mobility in the workplace.
  • Information Technology.
  • E-commerce.
  • Interest rates, credit availability.
  • The value of the dollar.
  • Communities that are
  • The generation waves.
  • The growth of home offices.
  • The growth in home-based businesses.
  • Immigration.
  • The downsizing of corporations.
  • Crime and
  • Energy generation.
  • Environment protection.
  • Climate Change.
  • Governments, Politics.


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Personal Experience

One of my hobbies is Chinese cooking. The secret behind many of the greatest dishes is patience and pacing. When I cook something slowly, at a lower heat for a longer time, the flavours and textures can yield great banquets for my family and friends. The process of your own creations and innovation aren’t much different.

Typically I find people searching for an answer or innovation with a deadline in mind or a sense of urgency. Rarely do we get the chance to create something, without the pressure of a deadline. Often, it’s our innovation that enjoys the benefits of ‘slow cooking’ While many of our innovations tend to be neglected, but when (and if) they actually do come to fruition, they are extraordinary.

The only thing I could and continue to work on slowly is my own writing. Article ideas, observations from other entrepreneurs, insights for starting and leading a business.  I write down these thoughts and then I come back to them again and again without a deadline in mind. Sometimes I’ll write down a question or an inkling and then, months later, I’ll come back to it and add more or finish a sentence. Over the years, I’ll refine these little musings, delete pieces, add layers, and just let them evolve naturally.

Know the difference between your normal work and innovation that needs to be slow-cooked.  Everyone has some degree of creativity and if it is to lead to innovation you need the courage to take a few risks and follow through.




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