For your small business to grow, you have to innovate. Coming up with new ideas and adapting to a changing marketplace are necessary if you want to stay ahead of your competition. Innovation also helps your small business handle unexpected changes in the market. Establish a culture of innovation within your company and set up formal processes that help employees and management come up with and implement new ideas so you stay prepared for anything.
Generate New Ideas
The first step of innovation is generating ideas. Innovative ideas can be improvements upon existing things or completely new inventions that disrupt the industry. Set aside time specifically dedicated to innovating, either by holding periodic meetings for brainstorming or by allowing employees to spend 10 to 15 percent of their workdays trying new things. Setting specific goals for employees to focus on, such as new packaging ideas or ways to reduce waste in the office, can help drive innovation.
Don’t restrict innovation to upper management. Sometimes the best ideas for improvement come from workers struggling with a specific problem that management never sees. Suggestion boxes, an open communication policy, and a reward system set up to encourage workers to share ideas can all help boost innovation at all levels of your organization. Having a clear innovation process gives employees a framework they can use to get brilliant ideas from the front lines to the manager’s office.
Evaluate and Experiment
An innovative idea only has value if you can put it into action. Screening and evaluating ideas before trying to implement them lets you weed out ideas that might not succeed and allows you to concentrate your efforts only on truly innovative concepts. Creating prototypes, working with focus groups, and engaging in pilot tests of a new product or service can help you determine whether the innovation is worth pursuing further.
During the evaluation and experimentation phase, your small business needs to put resources into the idea. Including innovation in your annual budget and business plan ensures that good ideas don’t go to waste because of a lack of funding. In some cases, you can get financial help from the government for innovation. For example, if your company is involved in science and technology, tax incentives for innovation and research may be available through the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Program.
Implement Innovative Ideas
Once you have determined that an innovative idea is feasible, it’s time to implement it within your company or industry. If the idea involves a change to your existing product or process, you might have to get workers and management on board before making adjustments to the status quo. Training videos or explanatory meetings can get everyone comfortable with the new way of doing things and make the adjustment go more smoothly.
Innovative ideas that affect the industry may require extensive marketing efforts to get consumers to try the new product, service, or method you have developed. No matter how you generate and implement new ideas, keeping the focus on innovation helps your company stay agile, efficient, and profitable in an ever-changing marketplace.