If you want to stay competitive, or even dominant, in the market, then being able to stay ahead of the curve is essential. You can cling on to changing times and be agile enough to respond to new presences and trends in the market. However, the greatest gains lie in your ability to be truly innovative.
But what does it mean to innovate? How can you keep the spark of inspiration alive in your business and always be working towards the new product, service, or development that can help you excel? Here are a few tips on fostering a culture of innovation that could truly end up paying off for you.
Act like an innovator
Fake it til you make it might seem like a rather shallow tip, but there is some wisdom there. If you create a brand reputation of having an innovative company, it changes how your team and how prospective team members will think about the business. They will think of it as a space that embraces creative thinking, meaning they are more willing to try coming up with and putting forth ideas that could lead to real innovations.
Be on the lookout for the brightest minds
Innovation is born of creative thinking, which isn’t a skill that everyone has. For that reason, you need to make sure that you’re on the lookout for the sharpest minds around. To get truly competitive, you’re going to find yourself competing over hires as well. To hire creative people, you need to be networking in creative spaces, such as universities and networking groups. You also need to frame any roles you have on offer as the creative opportunities that they should be. Moreover, be sure to offer the perks or career progression that creative minds are so often looking for. The cream of the crop isn’t going to take a position unless they have a good idea of what steps up the career ladder it can offer them.
Incentivise innovations in the team
Simply put, why should your employees care about what bright idea gets implemented in the business? Some people will do it for the sheer chance to solve a problem, but you have to make sure your employees have reason to be invested in the company. First of all, invest in them by offering them development opportunities. Make sure you recognise and reward good work, especially when it comes to innovation. Get them involved early in plans by keeping them in the loop on the strategies and challenges facing the company. The more you can help them feel like members of the team, the more willing they will be to solve problems with you proactively.
Always be identifying problems
The main point of any product or service is to identify a pain point that your customers are experiencing and to offer them a solution that helps get them over it. If you can identify brand new pain points and hone in on a problem to solve, then you can truly innovate and flourish. There is innovation in iteration, as well. If you and your competitors are offering the same kind of products or services, look closer. What are the pain points of a customer who is using the solutions currently available? Can you develop on existing products and services to solve those pain points, as well?
Different departments, management levels, and sections of the team should all be working together on innovation. Diversity of thought and being introduced to ideas outside your usual box is one of the strongest possible forces when it comes to finding inspiration for new ideas. Weekly leadership meetings, having people to act as bridges between different teams, and using general channels in team communication software can all be a great help in connecting the different parts of your team together. Reverse mentorship programs are a great idea, too. Have leaders of the team spend a little time each week with someone they manage. Do whatever you can to introduce diversity of thought into the team and get everyone communicating.
Be willing to invest in active efforts
If you’re not setting aside money and manpower for research and development, then you might find it hard to get the ball rolling on innovating new products, services, and ways of doing business. For instance, you could have a department of the business staffed mostly of engineers and designers with the sole purpose of developing new products. It’s costly, but there may be help out there for you, such as R&D tax relief. What is R&D tax? Simply put, you may be able to get some of the costs of your R&D efforts covered, or reimbursed. Whether your business is small or large, there are tax solutions that could your business invest what it needs to in order to get innovative.
Stay up to date with and embrace new technology
If the 21st century has further reinforced and proved a concept, it is that technology is the dominant force when it comes to market disruption. New technologies will always provide massive opportunities for innovation. Stay up to date on technology that is likely to shape how you do business, and carefully weigh when to invest. Early adopters can get stung by the high costs of brand new technology and may find it’s not yet ready to offer what it promises. However, wait too long, and you could just be following others in the market who are already taking advantage of said technology. Getting the timing right is crucial, so pay close attention to the technology being currently developed.
Know the different ways that you can innovate
What’s a good way to foster a culture of innovation? Always be innovating, of course. However, this doesn’t just mean innovating the products and services that you offer your customers. There are smaller, but just as important, ways to innovate that can keep the creative spark alive in your business. Process innovation can include looking at new ways to carry out common work processes that free up employee time. Marketing innovation can involve taking a new spin on your brand to try and reach your audience in a way that you haven’t been able to before. Sales innovation can be all about how you manage customer relationships. Look at the different types of innovation and encourage your team to think about all dimensions, not just one.
Give yourself and your team time to innovate
Simply put, creative thought is difficult when your back is constantly up against the walls. Deadlines will happen, but if you want to have the room to think about innovation, you may need to look at ways to reduce your workload and the workload of your creative teams. This can be avoided by having a team that’s dedicated specifically to R&D but, otherwise, you should look at methods such as outsourcing to give yourself the time and room you need. Automation is another great way to lead to innovation, as it reduces the workload for everyone involved in a process, not just a couple of people.
Simply put, to be innovative, you must be actively trying to innovate. You must be attracting the right minds, giving them room to run, and have the money to put into developing new products and services. Otherwise, you simply won’t be able to get the steam you need to keep running with an idea when it comes.