Business comes from solving problems.\u00a0 Innovation comes from solving problems in style\u2014meaning that companies like Apple, Google and 3M solve a problem that others have not, will not or cannot solve; or they solve it in a cutting-edge manner; or their solution is more cost effective and/or more fun. There are a lot of ways to be innovative with your products. But ultimately, it\u2019s not even about the product. It\u2019s about the problem that the product solves. Products Solve Problems In "Small Business Lessons From the World\u2019s 10 Most Innovative Companies" Anita Campbell refers to \u201cBooz & Company\u2019s latest annual study of global innovation\u201d which evaluated \u201cHow the Top Innovators Keep Winning.\u201d\u00a0 She highlighted quite a few findings from the report including the four things that all the innovators have in common, which, she notes, are \u201cthings a small business can easily do.\u201d I agree.\u00a0 Among those four is the idea that you have to understand your customers. Respectively, Apple, Google and 3M are the top three innovators in the study (Microsoft is number six) but they are not the only ones making waves.\u00a0 In her article, Anita refers to the top 10 companies and you.\u00a0 Anita says that \u201cthese companies innovate by finding unmet customer needs and creating products or services to fill them.\u201d Think about it: In the beginning people didn\u2019t think they needed the iPad\u2014they didn\u2019t even know what it was. But iPad purchasers knew that they wanted a more portable computing experience. Apple solved that problem in the form of an iPad. Innovators solve relevant problems\u2014and small businesses can too. \u00a0 Whether it\u2019s a business that provides a service or a physical product, it is all about identifying the people that you serve (target audience) and the concern that they have (the problem), as well as creating the answer to their issue (the product) and packaging it in a way that they understand and cannot resist (the marketing). But this is not the only kind of problem in business. Experience Comes From Overcoming Problems You didn\u2019t know then what you know now.\u00a0 And as my father says, some of those lessons come from mentors, and others come from mistakes.\u00a0 In "On Experience, Reflection and Change in Business" John Mariotti highlights the pain and pleasure of acquiring experience.\u00a0 He says, \u201cThe worst thing about experience is that you have to live through things to get it and that can sometimes be painful.\u201d On the other had, once you do get it,\u00a0\u201cno one can take it away from you.\u201d But as John points out, you don\u2019t always grow and change from your experiences. The situations that make a difference in our businesses are the ones that we understand what happened, why it happened, and eventually, how to change it. The problems that we learn from and overcome can qualify us to solve our clients\u2019 problems, and that\u2019s business. Solving Problems Is an Art - and a Skill In "What Salesmen Can Learn From Saleswomen and Vice Versa" Diane Helbig says,\u00a0\u201cProspects aren\u2019t looking for the next latest and greatest idea. They are looking for solutions to problems.\u201d Every problem has a solution\u2014somewhere, in some form.\u00a0 Medical research is based on that idea\u2014that we can find the answer (given the right environment, the right team, the right resources).\u00a0 According to Diane, your potential customers care about finding solutions to their problems.\u00a0 You are in business if you can solve the problem and communicate it. Since her article focuses on what men and women can learn from each other in a sales setting, her advice plays to the strengths of each.\u00a0 Diane says that \u201cmen almost immediately formulate a solution to a problem when it is presented to them." Get the answers to people as quickly as you can.\u00a0 She says \u201cwomen listen intently and then present possible solutions.\u201d Pay attention, because you can\u2019t solve a problem that you don\u2019t understand. If you meditate on a problem and its solutions long enough, innovation just may show up when you least expect it.