Why Business Innovators Eventually Come Out on Top
Paul Ryan | April 06, 2018
Innovation is often what sets a business apart from its competitors, and enables growth in the long term.
Businesses that are innovative are far more likely to have higher levels of revenue, profit, productivity, cash flow, and competitive advantage.
Business innovation often comes about by the owners simply asking the question “How can we do things better than we are currently?” This usually doesn’t indicate that there is something ‘wrong’ with how the business is operating, but rather that there is room for improvement – as of course there always is!
How is business innovation defined?
Business innovation refers to creating or developing more effective processes, products, services and ideas that bring about benefits to customers and the business itself.
It is not necessary to be a mad inventor to be an innovator, nor does it always have to be an expensive exercise. It can be as simple as changing a work process to make it more efficient, or as elaborate as a world-first invention like the Flow Hive – a device that enables beekeepers to extract honey on-tap without needing to open the hive or to protect themselves from disgruntled bees!
What is required for good innovation?
Flexibility and an open mind would have to be at the top of the list of requirements for innovation. Other factors include:
* Great leadership – research at the University of Melbourne shows that lack of strong leadership from the top levels of organisations is a major factor in failing to thrive through innovation. Without a willingness to lead, creativity and innovation are unlikely to be fostered or encouraged among staff members.
* Adaptability to change and a willingness to take some risks – As a business owner, if you just want to do things as they have always been done, you may find that your business fails to grow and that it may even get left behind in the modern fast-paced business environment.
* The willingness and ability to create a culture of innovation – which basically means that innovation becomes an embedded part of the business’s overall strategy. Innovation then becomes not something you consider on top of or separate from business activity, but as an inbuilt part of it.
* Good communication – it’s no good having creative and innovative staff members if they are not listened to or given support and encouragement. Also, all too often employees are taken on without being told what the business’s goals really are. Taking the time and effort to communicate at all levels helps to foster creativity and ideas within a business environment.
* A willingness to invest in research and development – change requires a commitment to investing in time, money and other resources.
* Persistence – this means being willing to go the distance and keep an eye on your end goal.
Steps and tips for developing your business innovation
One of the best ways to get started on developing innovation in your business is by asking questions! Try connecting with customers and undertaking some market research and analysis to find out what they want and need. Options include surveys or questionnaires, asking for online feedback, or running focus groups. In fact knowing what your target market is looking for forms the basis of overall business success.
Other steps include:
* Analyse all aspects of your business to ascertain where improvements can be made or new products or services can be developed. Innovation should not be undertaken for its own sake, but in cases where positive and beneficial changes can contribute to your business goals.
* Develop a plan in response to all your analyses once you have a clearer picture of your clients’ needs and your business requirements.
* Make a commitment to good leadership from the top. Don’t set the ball rolling on innovation, and then opt out of the development process.
* Empower your staff through training and development where required. Don’t just leave people to it but make sure they have all the resources they need.
* Allocate resources to innovation. This does not always have to involve buckets of money – it might be as simple as allowing employees the time to generate ideas and suggestions and holding a weekly meeting to discuss them.
* Consider networking and partnering or collaborating with other businesses. Networking and collaboration can increase your access to ideas, expertise, equipment and other resources.
* Find the help you need – options for this include seeking advice from mentors and experts, attending trade shows and other events, seeking finance through loans or crowdfunding, and applying for government grants and assistance.
* Test the results of your innovations through further market research and customer feedback.
Innovation in a business can lead to higher productivity, profitability, an enhanced reputation, and have a positive impact on relationships with customers, employees and the wider community. If you want to have an innovative company, take the time to develop an innovative culture and allocate resources wisely to maximise your chance of success.