Improving and promoting innovation at your small business

Small businesses are built on a foundation of innovation, with an entrepreneur coming up with a brilliant idea for a new product, service or simply a more efficient way of improving on traditional items. It can be very easy to rest on one’s laurels after success has been attained, such as when your small business becomes a firmly established household name within its particular industry. Increased competition will mean rival companies attempting to emulate your success by copying your product or services and finding unique ways to produce and provide them more efficiently. Therefore, it is paramount that you set the tone in managing your small business by encouraging a workplace and atmosphere that not only promotes, but requires innovation. Here are some tips on how to improve innovation at your small business.

Innovation is inclusive and all-encompassing, not exclusive and limited
Entrepreneurs and small business managers often make the dire mistake of assuming that good ideas come only from a small circle of upper-level management and business insiders. According to Inc. Magazine, the truth is that brilliant ideas can come from any source at any time. Innovation depends on creativity, and creativity flows best when people can bounce different ideas off each other. Step outside the limited box of innovation by encouraging all levels of your employees – from upper management to entry-level and even janitorial staff – to always be thinking of how any business operation at your company can be improved. Even the smallest improvement could have a substantial ripple effect throughout the rest of your company, so dismissing an idea just because of its source is a fool’s errand.

Swim upstream and go against the mainstream
Computers were once dismissed as being too bulky, expensive and complicated for the average consumer to use on a regular basis, and early innovators like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were dismissed as being too wild with their ideas. Today, it would be impossible to imagine a world that is able to function without computers, all because a few daring individuals several decades ago decided that it was time to go against what society deemed to be normal or acceptable. Innovation occurs when someone decides to do something differently, according to Entrepreneur Magazine. Every participant within your particular industry might have been doing things the same way for years now. While that method or process might have worked for them, who’s to say that a new method couldn’t work more efficiently? Take a step back to look at your industry at large and look for possible inefficiencies and improvements that might never have been considered.

Provide a nurturing atmosphere
Innovation is similar to a spark in a fire – without the proper atmosphere to help it grow, the spark will merely dissipate and vanish into the air, just like an unpursued idea. However, give the spark the elements it needs – oxygen, kindling, persistence – and it could develop into a full-fledged bonfire. There might be hundreds of sparks floating around your office among your employees, but without the proper nurturing environment, those sparked ideas will ultimately go unfulfilled. Promote a nurturing environment by not punishing employees for mistakes that occur as a result of outside-the-box thinking, not encouraging employees to compete for managerial favor but instead focusing on company improvement, and never dismissing ideas.

How has your small business promoted innovation?

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