What does it mean to be innovative? And how can small businesses become innovative? In this video, I discuss what it means to have an innovation mindset and provide examples of how businesses—even small businesses—can be innovative.
In recent years, many experts have lauded the importance of having an innovation mindset in organisations. And evidence have shown the benefits of being innovative. According to the Innovation System Report of 2017, “Innovation-active firms are more likely to report increases in sales, profitability, productivity, firm size, and other growth-related measures than firms that don’t innovate.”
What does innovation mean?
Business.gov.au defines innovation as
“changing processes or creating more effective processes, products and ideas. For businesses, this could mean implementing new ideas, creating dynamic products or improving your existing services.”
Being innovative does not only mean inventing. Innovation can mean changing your business model and adapting to changes in your environment to deliver better products or services.
The simplest answer is that we innovate because we want to grow. If your business does not grow, it will start to shrink. To grow means to find new and better ways to do things; to grow can also mean to offer new and better products and services. You can’t expect to grow simply by doing the same thing over and over again. Things have to change and they have to change for the better.
Furthermore, change is constant—markets change, buying habits change, customer preferences and expectations change. If we want to survive, more so grow, we need to learn how to adapt to change—we need to learn how to innovate.
How does one become innovative?
- Change your mindset
Changing your mindset can be as simple as changing how you look for opportunities to grow. This can mean actively looking for customer pain points or needs.
This is exactly what the founders of Hangover Helpers did. The company is a niche cleaning company that offers a unique selling point—it is an after-party cleaning service that also offers breakfast to its clients. They even provide a special breakfast menu that clients can choose beforehand.
What makes Hangover Helpers innovative is how they solved a problem. Anybody can put up a cleaning service, but they saw an opportunity to provide a specific cleaning service—plus perks!—for people who were willing to pay for it.
- Change your environment
Innovation means tackling problems in a new way—or applying an existing solution to fit another problem in a different market or environment.
Let’s take the example of Vend, a point of sale POS software that helps small businesses accept payments, manage inventory and sell anywhere—that means businesses can sell their products online or in their brick-and-mortar store.
What is unique about Vend is that it provides a solution for two different types of retailers: one that sells online, and another that operates a physical store. And should either one decide to expand their operations, Vend could easily provide the means to support these goals. What Vend did is that it provided a flexible solution, which makes things easier for their clients to adapt their offerings to a changing market.
- Change your employees
You don’t necessarily need to overhaul your entire workforce to create a culture of innovation—but you can, however, change how they think and do things. You can empower your employees, just as Google did in its very early stages.
Google has a policy that allows their employees to develop up to 20% of their time to develop ideas that may not be part of their job description. Google employees can use the time to develop something new, or if fix products that seem broken. It was precisely because of this policy that allowed Google engineers to develop some of the company’s most innovative products: Gmail, Google Maps and Google AdSense during what the company considers as their 20% time.
Google invested in their team to improve the business. What resulted are products that complemented Google’s main offering, improved the lives of the people who use Google, and added tremendous value to the brand.
The examples show that any type of company can adopt an innovative mindset and nurture an innovation culture. The results not only help the bottom line, but also provide long-term growth when done correctly.
How do you think you can promote innovation in your company today?
If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.