Innovation is often misunderstood by small business owners. Many have a limited view of what the word means. Mention of the subject often conjures up images of huge corporations investing large sums of money into the development of new technologies and products.
The evidence is that businesses of all sizes that innovate on an ongoing basis are the ones that achieve radical success. Businesses that fail to innovate run the risk of falling behind to their competitors, operating inefficiently and losing key staff.
Innovation can feel like an elephant task but remember that not every innovation needs to be ground-breaking. There are two types of innovation and they are incremental and radical. Incremental innovation is where you make modest improvements to what already exists within your business. Radical innovation is where you create something brand new. The greatest innovator of all time was Thomas Edison and his target was to come up with a minor invention every ten days and a major invention every six months.
So it's important to rethink innovation as Steve Roche of Wizeeka (www.wizeeka.com), an expert on the subject, explains: "Innovation is simply about continually looking for a better way. The fact is that nothing is ever perfect and can always be improved be it a product, a process or any aspect of a business."
Here are the main areas of a business where innovations are possible.
- Products. Bringing out a new product or service is the obvious form of innovation. There are two types of product innovation and they are new-to-market products and new-to-you products. Product innovation can also include the ways in which your offerings look, feel and are designed.
- Processes. A process is 'any series of actions that exist to bring about a result'. A process innovation could include an improvement to how you produce your products or services or how you distribute them to your customers.
- Knowledge. This involves improving the ways in which information and experience is acquired, organized and shared within your organisation.
- Organisation. This includes aspects of your business such as the management structure and practices.
- Sales and marketing. This kind of innovation includes improvements in the ways that leads are generated and converted.
- Technology. New machinery, equipment and IT are always becoming available and innovations in this area can bring about significant efficiencies and competitive advantages.
These days if you stand still in business, you fall behind. So start today to rethink the word innovation and what it could mean for your small business. You simply must include continual innovation as a key part of your overall business plan.