With the global economy back on the rise, innovation is more important than ever. Small businesses must be able to compete not only with local or regional companies, but with global corporations. And with hindsight into the causes of the global recession starting in 2008, it is of the utmost importance to keep an emphasis on innovation, rather than relying on the old ways of doing things.
Merriam-Webster defines innovation as “the introduction of something new”, or “a new idea, method, or device”. While there may be people who say, “we’ve always done it this way in the past…”, innovation is just the opposite. It helps keep things fresh, stimulates creativity, and prepares a small business for inevitable change.
So how do you foster creativity and innovation in your business? Here are a few tips:
Include Innovation In Your Core Values
When a small business puts creativity and innovation at the top of its core value list, then all employees know that is a top priority in the business model. The tone you set with the emphasis on innovation will help fire up your employees.
Be sure you avoid vagueness in your core value statement. A simple statement like “we strive to innovate” does not contain enough detail. Innovate what? Products? Processes? Use a more specific statement like “we find ways to make our efficient systems better.”
Open Innovation From Everyone
Innovative ideas do not always come from the minds of engineers. A great innovative product or service idea can spring from the mind of an accounts payable specialist. Or at the very least, he or she may come up with a better way to process invoices and purchase orders. You never know where the next big idea or improvement will come from, so encourage an environment of open innovation that includes everyone on the ladder.
Develop a Creative Working Atmosphere
Do your employees work in an environment of cold, blue walls and harsh overhead fluorescent lighting? Or do you set up inspiring colors, hang art, and even provide creative activities for your employees?
The type of environment you provide your employees can make a big difference in their creative output. Many creative types of companies like architects and advertising agencies will provide stimulating games like pool, foosball, and other activities to help workers get creative juices flowing.
Allocate Creativity Time
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Take a page from Google’s book, and don’t forget to allow time for your workers to dwell on their innovative ideas. You could allocate a group outing one Friday each month. Encourage a half day off here and there. Promote a few hours of the day to sit in your resource room (or visit the local library/gym/etc).
Keep in mind that you may want to reserve this type of innovation incubation to employees who are employed as creative types such as salespeople, advertising reps, etc.
Do you positively reinforce your employees to give you their creative ideas? What good does it do them to share an idea if you get all the credit and they get nothing?
Be sure you encourage innovation with rewards. Rewards can be in the form of money or even gift cards. But it doesn’t have to be money. While a financial bonus may be welcome, even a simple recognition in front of everybody for their effort and contribution may be all a person needs.
Provide the Resources
The technology you supply can contribute highly to the success of innovative ideas. Be sure you provide the tools and resources needed, especially when it comes to software. Tools like Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop, CAD software, Illustrator, web design programs, digital animation, and even video editing software can all be helpful tools for your employees to create the products that sell to clients.
Don’t let your small business get left behind when it comes to beating the competition, growing a fledgling business, or simply staying ahead of a recession. Allow your employees to find their creative side, and foster that innovation that exists in everyone.