One of the strongest ways businesses can stay competitive in today's market is to innovate, innovate, innovate. Customers are demanding products with form and function unlike anything they've seen before. And if you want to outpace your competition, it helps to have a product innovation that's so new it puts you in a league of your own.
The challenge comes when the supply of innovative ideas seems to run dry. When fresh concepts are nowhere to be found and your creativity needs a serious jump start.
In my experience, one of the most successful ways to break this dry spell is to look in unlikely places for uncommon ideas. Getting out of the norm can help you see things with fresh eyes and may give you the spark you need to get back in the game.
Where are these uncommon places? You don't need to travel to far-off lands to find them. Some of the best are right around the corner.
1. A Magazine Rack
Take an hour and grab some magazines that have nothing to do with your industry.
Perusing the pages of unfamiliar industries and topics allows you to take in forms and functions you ordinarily don't see in your daily work. Expand your thinking by re-imagining what you see as a product design of your own.
2. Video Games
Game design eats, sleeps and breathes constant innovation. To stay in the forefront, designers must be out on the cutting-edge of product innovation, anticipating the next hot trend.
Get a walkthrough of this week's trendiest game and take in the sights, sounds and experiences that gaming can provide. Mine it all for possible product innovations that look nothing like what your competition offers.
3. The Local Flea Market
Have you been to a flea market lately? Between baskets of parts and shelves of imports, your senses will be inundated with ideas and designs you may not have been able to think up on your own.
Buy some of things that look like fun, take them home and play with them. There's nothing like playing to get back in the creative flow.
4. The Grocery Store
Packaging design has to be more than great. It's got to leap off the shelf, make us pick up something we don't ordinarily buy and convince us to make a purchasing decision in a split second.
Talk about innovative product design that must deliver!
Take a leisurely stroll through the aisles and pay attention to what grabs your eye and pulls you in for a closer look. Buy the packaging that does its job incredibly well and put it on your desk for inspiration as you tackle your next product innovation.
5. Your Grandmother's House
This is my favorite. If you survey all you can find on product innovation, it won't take you long to discover that everything old is new again. At the moment, the market cannot get enough of retro anything.
To help spark your own product creativity, you may want to pay a visit to your grandmother's house (or the next best thing, a low-end antique or thrift store). Ask her about the things in her house that she loves to use and get her to show you how they work. Take notes, take pictures and take video that you can share with your design team.
This list isn't extensive by any stretch, so add to it with your own ideas. Just by taking a walk in an unfamiliar neighborhood, you can see opportunities for inspiration that you never thought of before.
The trick is to approach everything with an open, creative mind. Feed your creativity with this fresh perspective and you can help elevate your product innovation and design in ways that can excite you and your customers. And that can help place you ahead of your competition.
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