effective listening

Innovate By Listening

innovate by listening

Ken Tencer was recently interviewed on the Small Business Advocate with Jim Blasingame. One of the two topics of conversation was: “Let customer expectations drive your innovation strategy” . In the interview, Ken explains that all businesses need to innovate to continue to grow and thrive. Businesses must change with the marketplace. Technology changes, marketplaces change and your business needs to change with it. How will you do it?

Innovation needs to begin with your customers’ needs. Get out and talk to them. Interview your customers and find out what’s keeping them up at night; understand what they need from you, your business, your service not just today but in six, 12, 18 months down the road. Understanding the challenges in their day-to-day business opens up different communication channels with your customer and helps to draw the most information possible out of them.

Customers are the people who buy what you sell. They are also your greatest source of insight and opportunity.

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Five New Year’s Resolutions for an Innovative 2013

Want your business to be more innovative in 2013? Make these five resolutions


Ken Tencer, CEO of Spyder Works Inc. and co-author of two books, The 90% Rule and Cause A Disturbance (to be released in 2013), speaks to groups around the world about branding and innovation. He is a relentless advocate of how easy and simple innovation can be for any business. He offers five easy-to-do New Years’ resolutions for anyone who wants to be a breakthrough innovator in 2013.

#1: Stop, look and listenThe world is filled with insight and inspiration. If you take the time to look and listen, you will discover ideas that can easily be transformed into new innovations for your business. Just get outside your business and your comfort zone and see what others are doing.

Resolution: In each month of 2013 have each member of your management team find at least three new ideas from outside the business.

#2: Build a backboardEveryone needs a backboard to bounce ideas off. And you can’t score if you don’t fire up a lot of ideas. So get your team together once a month to bounce new ideas around and see which ones score best.

Resolution: To create a backboard for your team and have them fire up as many new ideas as possible and pick the best “slam-dunks.”

#3: Be your own apprenticeDon’t be Donald Trump’s “apprentice,” be your own, and jump into your own Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den by testing your best ideas. See which of your team’s top ideas can meet a rigorous due diligence test.

Resolution: To invest the necessary due diligence each month to determine the best opportunities and present them as working projects.

#4: Choose a championEvery good idea needs a great champion in order to turn it into an active project that can become a commercial success.

Resolution: To champion innovation opportunities and treat them with the same rigour as you would any ‘traditional’ project in your company.

#5: Keep scoreMoney isn’t the only thing that counts but counting the things that generate money is critical to every innovative idea.

Resolution: To establish metrics for each new innovation in order to measure its return on opportunity.

If you make and keep these five simple resolutions, 2013 will be a happy, innovative new year. For how to do it; talk to Ken Tencer.

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The Three Basic Tools of Innovation: Eyes, Ears & Feet


Innovation Insights

One of a series by Ken Tencer, Spyder Works CEO

During a recent presentation on product innovation to the HBA Global Expo in New York City, I was asked a great question:  “What tools do I need to be a great innovator?”  My answer surprised many people with its simplicity: “Your eyes and ears.” Innovations are all around us, and when we take time to notice them they can stimulate more creative thoughts within each of us.  And I really should have also added “feet,” because the day before I had walked 40 Manhattanblocks looking for interesting and outrageous inputs to spur my own innovative thinking.  Here are two examples of what I found:

First, I noted that Ben & Jerry’s has introduced new Greek frozen yogurt.  They’re jumping on the trend that has seen smoother, higher-protein Greek yogurt double sales in each of the past three years.  It’s still not that healthy – Ben & Jerry’s positions its Greek frozen yogurt as a “reasonable reward,” not health food.  But it’s a fast, clever move to harness consumers’ changing tastes and growing health concerns, while maintaining Ben & Jerry’s reputation for flamboyant branding.  Who else would sell Greek frozen yogurt in flavors such as Strawberry Shortcake, Raspberry Fudge Chunk and Banana Peanut Butter?

I couldn’t miss the A&E TV show Storage Wars.  Why do people love this reality show?  It’s about discovery.  Four (and now more) modern-day treasure hunters, competing to find abandoned storage lockers concealing antiques, bargains, collectibles and other forgotten finds.  In tough economic times, this combination of hope, disappointment and triumph has become a magic elixir to lighten our daily struggles.

If you’re a product developer or retailer, the point is this: little discoveries and everyday surprises are all it takes to engage today’s cash-strapped consumers.

Next time you’re in a distant city – or even a new part of town – don’t even think of sitting back in a cab or going deep underground in the subway.  Take a walk.  Look up, look down, notice what people are wearing, venture into stores you’d never normally go into.  The more we get out of the office to see and hear other people, other products, other places and new approaches, the more ideas we can gather to make our own work more innovative and impactful.

Plus, it’s healthy.

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