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Leveraging Innovation For Your Small Business

By Arlynn Godinez, SEED SPOT Superior Program Manager

New ideas keep your business relevant and cutting edge. Innovation should drive every aspect of your business, from your daily operations to launching an amazing new product or service. Create a more competitive business by using innovative practices regularly.

What exactly is innovation? Liz Pearce, CEO of Liquid Planner, has a clear description in an article she wrote for Business News Daily; and from “The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need.

James Crowell of Crow Industries used his love of innovation to launch his own business. His journey began with his passion for robotics and space exploration. It eventually grew into leveraging technology in a variety of fields. His company may have started in space but is thriving in communities all around the world.

Through his experiences working with autonomous vehicles in a variety of settings from the Arctic regions of Earth to regions of the moon, he found innovative ways to apply the skills he learned to industry. His business uses his team’s knowledge and skills around autonomous vehicles to develop innovative ways for mining companies to access areas deep underground that are identified as too dangerous for humans. He is applying this same innovative process to the defense industry, creating ways to keep borders safe without endangering humans.

Many small business owners have the misconception that innovation is reserved for larger companies. This idea couldn’t be further from the truth.

As Richard Branson explained, “Small businesses are nimble and bold and can often teach much larger companies a thing or two about innovations that can change entire industries.”

This may sound unbelievable, but small businesses are actually better suited to be more innovative than a larger organizations. James believes that “Small businesses have the advantage of agility, they can move and change more quickly than larger corporations.”

With fewer hurdles for a small business to jump over, small companies can develop and implement new ideas quickly. Additionally, small businesses can temporarily allocate their resources to support a new idea. Shortening development time is critical. This also develops a culture where everyone is encouraged to get involved. Moving the innovation process to a fast track promotes creative thinking in your business.

Want to encourage innovation in your small business? Here are some ideas:

  1. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Keep innovation simple by improving your existing products or services, trying out a new marketing strategy, or finding a supplier that is offering you a better rate.
  2. Make innovation a routine. Schedule an hour or so each week to brainstorm and exercise your team’s creativity and establish goals that encourage you to improve your business through mind mapping techniques.
  3. Solicit suggestions. Ask or survey your employees, customers, and even vendors or suppliers if they have any suggestions on how you can improve your business.
  4. Get your team on board. Have them involved in the entire innovation process, such as solving problems during a meeting, providing a suggestion box, rewarding them for their ideas that become implemented, and providing creativity or innovation workshops.
  5. Invest in innovation. Purchase technology and equipment that can improve your business operations. Also, invest in developing new products and services.
  6. Educate yourself. Continue to learn new skills or information by attending workshops, webinars, conferences, local industry events, and reading everything from blog posts to books.
  7. Harness underappreciated trends. Don’t invest your resources in what might happen. Focus on the trends that are currently happening and ones that your competitors have overlooked.

Keep innovating and moving forward!

Lauren McDanell

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