Innovation: The introduction of something new. A new idea, method or device. (Merriam Webster)
Being innovative is a celebrated and sought-after trait in individuals and businesses, largely because it tends to be a critical ingredient for growth and success. And yet, most of us aren’t very good at it – and neither are most businesses.
“If you want to live an impactful life, you must break the mould. Stop being a blind conformist who just keeps to tradition. Challenging the status quo gives you the seeds of vision and opportunity.”
Mike Anderson, the Founder and CEO of the National Small Business Chamber (NSCB), believes this is because a fear of failure prevents most of us from taking risks. He says, “Most ideas never get off the ground because business owners are afraid to take a risk and fail, and employees are not permitted to try new things and take some risk. Those who have achieved real success have overcome the fear of failure and often risked the most to get there.”
He continues, “If you want to live an impactful life, you must break the mould. Stop being a blind conformist who just keeps to tradition. Challenging the status quo gives you the seeds of vision and opportunity. There are always better ways of doing things. Strive to be the one who will discover the better way. When you do this, windows of opportunity and abundant wealth will open widely for you.”
To help develop and nurture a culture of innovation in yourself and your business, the NSBC shares these ten tips:
1. Motivate your team to come up with new ideas.
There are many ways to do this, such as encouraging problem solving in meetings, or providing a suggestion box. Any ideas that are successful should be celebrated, and even rewarded, so that staff are inspired to keep trying.
2. Schedule time for innovation.
Set aside regular sessions for brainstorming, so that you and your staff can flex your creative muscles and be intentional about innovation.
3. Ask for ideas and suggestions.
Whether it is your employees, customers or suppliers, ask them for recommendations on how to improve your business. This can be done informally, or through a survey or questionnaire.
4. Be open to what others say and think.
If you are asking people to make suggestions or think outside the box, you will get feedback that you don’t like or agree with. It’s important that you understand this and create an environment where any feedback is welcome. If people don’t feel safe, they won’t invest themselves in what you are trying to do.
5. Encourage your staff to take risks and try new things.
This means you cannot penalise people who do this and fail. Fear destroys innovation, and practice makes perfect.
6. Make sure everyone in the business feels they can be innovative.
This empowers everyone to take ownership of their role and responsibilities. It also means your company culture will be authentically innovative.
7. Seek creative and risk-orientated individuals when you are recruiting.
Keep in mind that often these are the people who have an unorthodox work history.
8. Remember that innovation doesn’t have to be big or dramatic.
A valuable innovation can be a small adjustment to your product or service, which improves them just a little bit.
9. Put your money where you mouth is and invest in innovation.
Purchase technology and tools that help to improve your business and invest in developing new offerings for your clients.
10. Keep learning.
Find opportunities to gain new skills or knowledge, whether through reading, signing up for a course or attending an event. And remember to share these opportunities with your team.
For more about the NSBC, visit www.nsbc.africa.