8 Characteristics of an Innovative Business

Every small business would also want to be innovative but how does get to be innovative? An innovation ready business will have some of the


You want to be innovative you must pursue innovation and consciously so. Have a vision and a strategy for innovation which complements with your overall organization strategy. It’s not enough to just write it down on the wall as a value rather ensure every of your staff is commits it to heart. Ideas will come from your customers so listen to them and proactively seek them out. When was the last time you did a customer satisfaction survey? Your suppliers too will always have some sort of suggestions. Seek out ideas from your staff and let them all know that we are open to innovations. Focus your discussion with your staff on possibilities rather than business as usual

2. Right Culture

Build a culture of innovation and learning. Know that wild ideas will come and how you handle such ideas will determine the likelihood of other ideas coming in future. If you lambast someone for their ideas you shut them off. If you don’t give feedback people get discouraged. Some ideas will fail and lead to loses. Don’t mark it on someone’s forehead. It failed. So what? Let’s move one and try other till we succeed. Build a culture of trust and empower your staff to take responsibility.

3. Learning and Knowledge Management

Every time I go to a company and find they have a white (or black) board it is always a sign of an organization that wants to improve. Get these ideas, write them down and discuss issues. Encourage your staff to meet often. Have internal trainings by your staff or sometimes bring external resources. Encourage and support your staff to further their knowledge. If you are comfortable milking the old knowledge your staff came with 5 years ago then you won’t grow much.  Then importantly, ensure there is documentation for everything even whatever the interns are doing. Have a knowledge management system even if it is ensuring that information is deposited in a common folder. So many free online tools available.

4. Sufficient Capacity

It is always advisable not to bite more than you can chew. You do not want to gamble with all your resources in an idea just yet. Have some insurance by being splitting resources realistically between innovation and business as usual. Otherwise, there are still bills to pay and life to be lived. You will realistically set different lifetimes for your projects. There are those that must bring money now. But also have in the pipeline projects that can only start bringing money in the medium and long term. Otherwise, if your business will be around in the future then it will need to have small ideas which can only be nourished for now to grow.

5. Collaboration with Stakeholders

Don’t try to innovate in a vacuum. Get stakeholders buy in. You will need to work very closely with your suppliers and buyers to succeed. Sometimes you will also need to collaborate with even your competitors. Maybe research isn’t your strength so how about collaborating with academic and research institutions? A collaboration framework is best premised on a good understanding backed up with a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).

6. Budget for Innovation

Do you set aside budgets for innovation? Sometimes you will have innovation projects under development, other times you will have nothing but still need money to harvest ideas. You staff might want to try ideas but will need your support. Maybe the purchase of better machines, new materials, new processes or even having a meeting at a different setting rather than the usual office table. The budgets don’t have to be strenuous. If you leave your office door open maybe the staff will walk in negotiate with you until you strike on a workable balance. Don’t be the guy who makes lots of drama about airtime and bus fares whenever your staff make a request. Budget for that.

7. Incentives and rewards

You will need to do more to encourage your staff to be innovative than just speak about it. There are plenty of incentive and reward packages you can adopt. The key thing is to link them to innovation. Don’t be happy when you, alone, are taking holidays and bonuses from your company performance ignoring the people that brought forward the good fortune. It’s amazing what a motivated team can achieve and sometimes what might be curtailing them might be your 8-5 routine.

8. Track Results

You will need to keep tabs of the numbers to know how ideas are impacting your business. Did an idea really shorten the time of production and by how much time? Did an idea lead to improved revenues and by how much? How about profits? How about savings and cost cutting? Unless you track the numbers then you don’t know which way innovation.

Do you have targets for your people, how many would be about innovation? Do you have targets for your projects? How long does a product/service last in until its reviewed or even retired? If your business is still on the same product 5 years later without any improvements, you will soon be in trouble.

<Interested in talking about innovation in your business? Get in touch. We will be happy to help>

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