Creativity and innovation go hand in hand, but innovation also comes with exposure to risks and even potential failures. For example, when a business introduces a new product to the marketplace, they may be venturing into uncharted territory that may result in a hit or a flop. Innovation transcends product development. It also touches on other areas like management, strategy, sales, and marketing. When innovation fails, it is often traced back to one of these other areas, rather than due to a lack of creativity. The innovation must align with the business’s broader strategy in order to ensure success. When you learn how to successfully innovate in your startup, you can potentially catapult your business to new levels of success.
Areas for Innovation
There is no area of your organisation that cannot be improved by innovation. This includes everything from managing your team’s work schedules to customer relations, sales, procurement, and logistics. To begin innovating in your business, first analyze each department’s strengths and weaknesses. Then, think outside the box for solutions to build on your strengths rather than trying to eliminate weaknesses.
Innovation can be used to develop your business strategy, but it is not a strategy in its own right. With the fast pace of today’s marketplace, your business must create solutions that are perceived by customers to be good value for money either because they are better, different, or more prominent, affordable, or convenient.
Start with the Team
In order to drive innovation in your business, you must have a creative, forward-thinking team. More than that, each individual should feel that his or her ideas are welcome, encouraged, and appreciated.
Henry Ford, who innovated and set up the first assembly line to mass produce automobiles, said: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
There are no bad ideas in brainstorming. An idea that is not actually selected for use could instigate someone to come up with an idea that is used. Therefore, it is important for everyone to feel free to toss any idea out there for the group to consider. In addition, try to hire for a diversity of experience, skills and mindsets rather than just a diversity of minority groups. If your team can look at a product, plan, or situation from many perspectives, you will be able to access different and creative ideas that will help to set you apart.
Manage the Risk
Even when you think that you have an amazing idea, there is always a risk when trying something new. You can mitigate some of this risk by testing out the idea in a small, defined way. You can also set up contingency plans. Testing the idea by building a functioning prototype, conducting a survey, or seeking customer feedback can help you to develop a new process or product that is truly beneficial and likely to succeed.
Use the Tools
There are some excellent tools and applications available for you and your team to use when innovating. It may not be necessary to recreate the wheel when you are trying to innovate, and applying the right techniques can help you to save time and energy. For example, the Six Thinking Hats and SCAMPER process can help you to brainstorm great ideas. SCAMPER is a thinking process that can help you to develop ideas. It stands for “substitute, combine, adapt, magnify, put to other uses, eliminate or minify, and rearrange”. Another strategy to use is the Pomodoro technique. This is a time management technique that involves working for an allocated number of minutes before taking a break. This method can help you to stay focused and productive. Regardless of how you innovate, you can use these tools (as well as many others) to make the process easier, and to make sure you remain creative, flexible, and open minded.
In some cases, innovation occurs randomly. However, in many cases, innovation is the expected result of a focused team who collaborates well and follows a deliberate process. Startup founders have a special role to play as innovation managers, and are responsible for setting up and protecting the creative culture of their organizations. Innovation is not an isolated activity and should be monitored and improved continuously. And when combined with the right strategy, you will be more successful at achieving the desired results.
Heather Redding is a freelance writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is also an avid reader and a tech enthusiast. When Heather is not working or writing, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee.