How to drive innovation in your business

Pauline Muindi

Innovation can drive even the smallest business to great success. It makes a small business more competitive and better placed to capitalise on opportunities as they arise. That said, many small business owners are too busy with the mundane day-to-day tasks of running their businesses to think about innovation strategically, not to mention that they don’t have an innovation budget to begin with.

Does that mean that small business owners shouldn’t focus on innovation? Not really. In today’s fast-paced business world, innovation is the name of the game and it ensures long-term survival and success of a business — whatever its size. If you’re not innovating, your business will quickly fall behind competitors who are. It’s also important to note that consumers are always looking for products and services that better serve their needs in every industry.

According to Deloitte, innovation is “the development of new or improvement of existing products, services or processes.”

In the modern world, the most innovative companies use Artificial Intelligence (AI), platforms and ecosystems to come up new products, services and ways of working.

For the small business owner, innovation does not have to focus on or the latest technology. Here is how you can drive innovation in your small business:

Cultivate a culture of innovation

It all starts with you cultivating and promoting an innovative culture within your organisation, allowing your staff to speak up, contribute incredible ideas and implement creative techniques. Remember, there’s no such thing as a crazy or too daring proposal — encourage your team to think outside the box as the foundation of a vibrant innovative culture.

Your employees must feel free to contribute and that their efforts are recognised, valued and taken into account. You’ll need to tear down the barriers between management and staff, as well as promote continual cross-departmental contact through brainstorming sessions. Put all of your suggestions in a digital suggestion box, then put your resources into actualising the winning proposal.

Hire innovative employees

Innovation is not an inherent personality trait – it can be learned with time if one has the right attitude and approach.

That said, you can’t simply list innovation as a company value and ask employees to be innovative. It does not work that way; some people are simply not naturally creative or are yet to unlock their creativity through experience and training.

As a business owner looking to cultivate an innovative culture in your company, it is better to go for employees who have already proved to be innovative. When hiring, go for people who are good at thinking innovatively and even bringing their ideas to life. Look for candidates with unique hobbies, who read widely and who have creative habits, such as writing and painting.

Embrace technology

What new technologies can you integrate into your processes? Without embracing technology, it is nearly impossible to be truly innovative in business. By incorporating technology, you can automate your processes with AI-driven software – which can ultimately reduce your overheads, make you more efficient and effective and increase revenue.

In addition, combining evergreen solutions with cutting-edge technology will help you attract a more modern market. For instance, you can combine usual phone systems with digital customer service tools. This will enable you to address the needs of different types of customers while also streamlining workflow for your employees for a more efficient work environment.

Create innovation teams

Your team members may not have the time or resources to be creative or innovative because they are too preoccupied with their regular tasks. Rather than putting innovation on hold until an opportunity arises (which may never happen), you can devote some of your resources to creating departments and divisions dedicated to it.

Opening a new department with a few hand-picked, brilliant innovators may appear to be a large investment at first, but it can make all the difference for your brand’s future. After all, it’s a long-term investment that will pay off handsomely if your staff shares their brilliant ideas with the rest of the company and attempts to collaborate to bring these projects to fruition.

Commit to continuous improvement

Implementing an innovative idea is not enough. You must commit to constant research, monitoring and improvement of your ideas.

How well is the marketing responding to your innovative ideas? What can you do to make them better?

It is important to collect data on your innovation from which you can derive actionable insights. Use such insights to create an even stronger innovation strategy. The metrics will also tell you what works and what you shouldn’t waste more resources on.

Make sure to analyse your demographic’s needs to identify pain points, track the performance of your solution and adjust your strategy as needed.