Is your business innovative?

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Innovation becomes more difficult as organisations get bigger. Resistance to change can come from vested interests, ingrained management habits, investment controls, risk aversion and the short-termism of shareholders. Many smaller businesses by definition have risk-takers like you at the helm and so should be more innovative – but often lack the resources or skills to innovate successfully. How can you overcome this and achieve innovation on a small business?

1. Communicate a clear vision. While not all innovations can or should have direct customer impact, all innovation should be contributing towards your commercial goals, ideally in a measurable way. To make this happen, you and your staff need to be aware of what those goals are and how they are measured – so publish and communicate your strategy and objectives.

2. Look outside your industry. What seems innovative in one industry can be standard practice in others so look outside your industry for translatable ideas that your business can adopt.

3. Accept that not everyone is an innovator but expect everyone to be involved in innovation. Even innovative businesses have a low percentage of innovative staff. If everyone were to spend all their time innovating then it would be pretty chaotic. Uncontrolled innovation would be inadvisable when, say, running the payroll or doing server backups. However, the aim should be to make innovation part of the way the business operates, rather than a separate exercise or discipline.

4. Provide the conditions for innovation to take place. Innovation requires certain conditions in order to flourish: A supportive, non-blame culture that accepts that new ideas won’t always work, leadership with vision and a clear goal, some tools and process, and external advice or stimulation. It also often needs a crisis to give it impetus (so if you don’t have one, create one).

5. Practice. Getting good at innovation, like all skills, requires practice and learning through mistakes.

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