Very few people start a business with the idea of offering exactly what their competitors do, in the same way, and for the same price. Instead, businesses bloom when there’s new demand, new technology, new possibilities to pursue, which is why companies constantly look for ways to innovate. As Forbes explains, business innovation can take many forms, and savvy leaders consistently promote a culture of innovation using several methods.
Place Value on Business Innovation
It’s not enough to describe your company as forward-thinking or to tell employees you want them to come up with ideas. Instead, you need to provide an incentive for innovation to occur, typically in the form of prizes and recognition. Incentives for business innovation can come in many forms and work at different price points. Examples include:
- Offering cash awards for especially successful or lucrative innovations
- Presenting a plaque or certificate during a business event
- Providing prizes like mugs, t-shirts, or even high-end merchandise for suggestions
- Praising efforts to innovate via company newsletters, department meetings, and so on
Another important part of placing value on innovation comes from maintaining ownership of the creative works your team creates with strong intellectual property protection and defense.
Work with Innovators
Make innovation a focus when hiring new employees for key positions. Ask interview questions about their involvement in developing new technology, services, or products, how they have spurred process improvement, and so on. If you aren’t hiring, bring in innovators through contractors, consultants, open-source collaboration, and crowdsourcing.
Solicit Ideas from Everyone
Nothing kills innovation like the stated or implied belief that only a few people’s opinions are worthwhile. Yes, an executive team likely has a broader view of the company’s operations and draws from substantially more experience than someone in an entry-level position, but they also aren’t exposed to the everyday frustrations that sometimes inspire terrific and effective ideas. Provide opportunities for all team members to be heard, especially new employees, interns, and young people who don’t have fixed beliefs about the right and wrong way to do things.
Set Up Constraints on Innovation
This sounds counter-productive, but establishing boundaries can actually inspire creativity because your team will be forced to look at the same old thing in an entirely new way. Force people to innovate by limiting one or more of the following factors:
For example, challenge a team to replace a current process with something that will reduce costs by a certain percentage, or ask your IT group, “Instead of our usual phased approach to upgrading software, what would it take to successfully implement this by the end of the month?” You’ll be surprised by the innovative and inspired ideas they come up with.
Make It Okay to Fail
If a bad idea or failed project invariably leads to a damaged reputation, demotion, or other negative consequences, employees will have little reason to risk making suggestions. Inspire business innovation by celebrating the losses instead of punishing the “losers” who were involved. Reward good ideas even if they don’t ultimately pan out and speak in glowing terms about the knowledge and experience gained on a project that didn’t succeed.
Business Planning Never Ends
Getting stuck in a rut, too focused on your day-to-day tasks, allows opportunities for innovation to pass by. Avoid this trap by expanding your professional network, dedicating time to learning about new breakthroughs in your industry, attending workshops and seminars, and reading about a range of topics.
If you need help developing a strong business plan, process, or innovation, speak with a Seattle business lawyer. It’s worthwhile to get expert analysis from a legal standpoint. Also, Seattle business attorneys have seen many companies rise and fall, so they may have great insight into what works and what doesn’t in your area. Consider your lawyer as an advocate in the business planning process.