Successful businesses tend to have a USP (Unique Selling Point). Those with market domination, tend to be first in the market. Ideally you will have a distinctive USP that is hard to copy. Using trademarks, copyright, and patents to keep your USP protected. With patents it is possible to obtain legal protection against copying for up to 20 years. A legally supported monopoly!
Consider M&M's "chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your hand". The product, coupled with the advertising creates a unique and desirable market position. It's not all about products, for example consider Domino's service "30 Minutes or it's Free". A good USP gives competitive advantage.
A list of the worlds largest companies reveals names such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Companies which have either been the first to dominate their market, or have a reputation for continued innovative product development.
Intel, Dyson, and TetraPak have used patents to protect their markets. The use of patents is becoming a more common business tool in major organisations. Not only will creative techniques allow you to create patents, they will allow you to "steer around" competitor patents by creating alternative methods of achieving the same result.
If you are relying on your instincts, and do not use a recognised creativity tool, then you can double your effectiveness easily. Even if you are already using basic techniques, you can double again, but it will take longer to achieve. The message is simple; for the same time and effort, you and your team can create more ideas. Ideas are the start of any innovation process. If you create more ideas, you will create more options for innovation. This is a major competitive advantage.
Your company is about to develop a new product. The plan is to get ahead of the competition, and create something with some unique sales features. Until recently most companies operated in the same way: using analysis and logic to produce plans for new products and services. These results were logical, and easy to justify to colleagues. If you adopt this approach, you will typically have a proposal supported by data, and based on experience. Such a proposal is made, and accepted as the most logical solution. In most cases you have met your goal, but if the goal was to be original and unique you are in for a shock. There is a high chance your competitor will be working on the same thing!
Let’s say a competitor follows the same reasoning as you, they will probably reach the same conclusion. Why? Simply because the same logic must produce the same result. Suddenly your new ideas are the same as everyone’s new ideas. Instead of unique, you are merely average.
So how can you generate something truly unique and worthwhile? First limit the use of logic, it is a great tool, but forget it for a while during idea generation. Logic is a convergent thinking method: it narrows down possibilities to one single solution. To produce a unique, and original solution you need a divergent method such as lateral thinking, or brainstorming. At a simplistic level, if both you and a competitor use divergent techniques to produce 100 new ideas each, and then choose one at random, there is only a 1 in 100 chance of a match. So you have a high chance of being unique. To be innovative, and original, you should make use of divergent thinking. Substitute your logical thinking for some lateral thinking