Business Book: Developing New Business Ideas by Andrew Bragg and Mary Bragg

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The Independent Online

Innovation has become a touchstone of modern business; everybody, whatever sector they are in and whatever the age of their company, talks about it as being essential to their future success. But, for all this attention, it still seems to be little understood.

Innovation has become a touchstone of modern business; everybody, whatever sector they are in and whatever the age of their company, talks about it as being essential to their future success. But, for all this attention, it still seems to be little understood.

Even the vast numbers of books devoted to the subject that have been published in recent years seem to have done little to improve the situation. This is partly because the books, despite setting out to describe how organisations innovate or to explain the issues that need to be overcome in order that innovation will thrive, do not really help aspirant innovators. They tend to be either preaching to the converted or to be so complex that they suggest that innovation is an impossible goal for those not already doing it.

Andrew and Mary Bragg's Developing New Business Ideas might just be the book to change much of this. Sure, there is plenty of theory in which the experts can immerse themselves. There are also lots of graphs for the more scientifically-minded to ponder. But, above all, there is a good deal of simply stated common sense about the processes involved in turning ideas into sound business concepts.

Appropriately, then, the book starts off by demystifying the idea development process. Pointing to the story of James Dyson and his invention of the cyclone cleaner (one of many case studies held up as good and bad examples of innovation that pepper the book), the authors write: "The idea development process is an iterative process within which ideas are crafted, moulded and reinvented into valuable business opportunities."

The Braggs build on this to explain that the original idea is only "a first piece of the entrepreneurial jigsaw puzzle". At the same time, they stress that because of the need to develop an idea constantly, creativity is not confined to the idea's initial discovery. It is instead required at every stage to find ways over the hurdles that stand in the way.

Moreover, would-be entrepreneurs need to beware of rushing to market with their idea. This is because testing it often leads to permutations that are better than the original concept. "As James Dyson's prototyping exercises demonstrate, what is usually required is a series of trial-and-error iterations, or repetitions, before a crude and promising product or service fits with what the customer is really willing to pay for," write the Braggs.

As evidence for what can happen through incorrectly defining the opportunity as well as ignoring other possible solutions, they point to Sir Clive Sinclair's C5 battery-powered vehicle. In addition to suffering from technical limitations, the product was hurt by marketing that appeared to position it as a rival to cars rather than as an fun leisure "toy".

Underlying such tidbits on the dos and don'ts of innovation, though, is a oncept. And this is that the development of viable new business ideas is a systematic business process, whether the ideas are intended to be used within an existing organisation ("intrapreneurially") or within a new organisation (entrepreneurially). This process has four steps: seeking and shaping opportunities, generating new ideas, evaluating and selecting ideas and planning for implementation. "No information or idea is ever wasted, even if the idea is abandoned, because in failure lies the seed of further opportunity," write the authors.

Perhaps even more important than spelling out this process is the book's emphasis on the fact that innovation only really happens if an idea wins backing either within an organisation if it involves an existing company or from outside financiers in the case of a start-up. The Braggs quote Sir Clive Sinclair - presumably speaking from experience - as saying: "What inventors need to recognise is that what is great to them is not necessarily great to other people."

If this book can help inventors and would-be entrepreneurs in this area it will do not just them but also the economy as a whole a great service.

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