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What we Learnt at Small Business BIG Ideas

In today’s world of rapidly evolving technologies and shifting demographics digital disruption is the new normal.

But what does this mean for your business? Can innovative thinking be taught? How can you harness big ideas to make your product or service irresistible?

Recently, small business owners and entreprenuers from Victoria and beyond gathered at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre to hear two remarkable speakers: Gus Balbontin (formerly Lonely Planet) and Dr Amantha Imber (Inventium).

Here are some of the interesting and challenging ideas they shared with us.

Gus Balbontin

Gus was born and raised in the far-flung reaches of Argentine Patagonia. He started off his career with little more than innate resourcefulness and a great deal of chutzpah.

These qualities allowed him to travel throughout South America, surviving on little more than his wits. Eventually he came to Australia, where he applied for, and was given, high-profile roles with travel juggernaut Lonely Planet.

Adaptability is Key

It isn’t strength or intelligence that leads to survival but adaptability. Agile businesses that keep abreast of market changes already have the advantage over their competition.

Your Product is the Best Solution for Now

Your product is the best solution for now. Just because you’re meeting a customer need right now doesn’t mean you’ll continue to meet this need into the future.

Solve your Customers’ Problems

You’re in business to solve your customers’ problems, not to flog your product or service.

With any luck, your product or service may be your customer’s best solution (for now).

Disruption is the new business as usual

Disruption is a fact of business.

You have to think constantly about ways you can improve your product because new entrants to the market will eventually come along with a superior product, even if takes time for them to refine it.

Never assume that by sticking to what you know everything will be fine.

Be careful with concrete

Part of being adaptable is being careful about putting down concrete, both literally and figuratively. Your customer will still take a shortcut across the lawn no matter how beautiful your paved walkway is.

Investing too much time and money in one business system will inhibit your adaptability.

A Clear Vision and a Vague Plan

You should have a clear vision of where you want to go, but a vague plan about how you’re going to get there. Running a successful business is partly trial and error. Some things will work and others will not.

Keep it small and iterative. The more inflexible your plans to achieving success, the more you’re likely to lay down concrete and become less adaptable.

Three Components of Innovation

Innovation thrives in individuals and organisations where curiosity, courage and resilience are fostered and encouraged.

Do you have the curiosity to look over the fence for new solutions to old problems? Do you have the courage to follow these ideas, wherever they may lead? Do you have the resilience to bounce back if an idea fails?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no” you may need to look at how you can fine-tune your perspective and the culture in your organisation to foster innovation.

Dr Amantha Imber

Dr Amantha Imber is an innovation psychologist, best-selling author, and founder of Australia’s leading innovation consultancy Inventium.

She gave the audience a number of practical tips to unlock the innovator within. She also shared some key insights about how innovation can be harnessed to grow your business.

Innovation isn’t Just Change

Innovation is change that adds value. Therein lies its value proposition.

Innovation should always be a win for the customer, because your product or service has been refined and improved.

People Buy Solutions, Not Products

People are buying your product or service because they have a problem that needs solving.

Remember, you’re here to solve customer problems, and these can be simple or complex. The one constant is that these problems will change over time.

Think about a problem that customers have and for which they aren’t currently any solutions.

Ask one of your costumers if there was a single aspect of the customer experience that frustrated them. Negative feedback will grow your business by pointing out customer pain points.

Assumptions Can Fence in Our Thinking

Sometimes assumptions can fence in our thinking. Crush assumptions to break down the fence. What if the reality of a situation were the exact opposite of what you think it might be?

Remove the blinkers–including the blinkers of expertise–to make your thinking more expansive.

The Best Decisions are Made Before Lunch

Our nine-to-five work lives belie the fact that our best thinking happens in the morning.

Decision fatigue is a reality, particularly in the afternoon. Do your hard thinking work in the morning; where possible do your process work in the afternoon.