Developing and safeguarding your innovative ideas
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When planning an innovation, it's important to ensure that your idea adds value for your customers in some way.
Think of ideas that enhance your responsiveness to customer demands, improve your turnaround time, meet new environmental standards or broaden your reach to new markets. Not every idea will be original, but make sure your company and your clients see direct benefits from the investment in innovation.
Once you have an idea, it's time to determine whether your concept or innovation will actually work and deliver what it promises.
If market research points to a definite need for your product or service, the next step is to test your innovation before it goes into full production or is fully launched.
Build a prototype
A commonly used strategy, particularly in product development, is to build a prototype, which is basically a way to test your product with a working model.
It may not be the final product, but you should strive to make it the next best thing. Seek the expertise of designers and engineers to help you build your prototype. Analyze your prototype thoroughly to see if there are any improvements you might make to it.
Once you've solved any problems with your product, you can move to full design.
Test process innovations
If you are testing a process—for example, an innovative way to deal with customer complaints—you would want to ensure it works with a targeted group of customers before rolling it out to your entire customer base.
This gives you the opportunity to gather data on the effectiveness of your improvements based on customer feedback.
Testing can save you time and resources. It's a wise way to manage your innovation investments and be sure that you're moving in the right direction.
Protect your ideas
A good idea can be the core of a new business or provide added edge to an existing one. That makes it highly valuable in today's competitive business environment. After all, your intangible assets such as intellectual property are often what make your business unique.
Obtaining trademark protection may help you bolster your brand value and goodwill with customers and investors. Patent and industrial design protection can help you maintain market exclusivity and build a barrier to entry against your competitors.
A lot of entrepreneurs may worry about safeguarding their innovations. Before investing time and money in obtaining IP protection, do some simple market research and competitive analysis to get an idea of what products and services are currently on the market. A visit to the appropriate industry-specific trade shows is another good way to see what's out there.
Success breeds imitation
One excellent way to protect a business idea or innovation is to implement it successfully and profitably; success creates its own barrier to entry against competition. Still, success also breeds imitation, and once you have an edge, assume somebody will try to beat you by improving upon your product or service. Stay ahead of the game by considering ongoing improvements as one of your challenges, and by protecting your intellectual property.
For more information about the intellectual property application and registration process, visit the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).