Many small businesses say they want to foster innovative solutions within their organizations, but actually doing it is another matter entirely. The unfortunate reality is that many smaller companies work with limited resources and tight budgets, turning innovation into more of an afterthought than a priority. However, to truly succeed, thrive, and grow, small businesses should always be looking now creative and innovative solutions to problems. They definitely shouldn’t feel intimidated by their smaller size. In fact, in many cases a small business may even be at an advantage when compared to their larger rivals. Here are just a few ways that small companies can work to boost innovation from within.
- Company Culture
Innovation doesn’t just happen on its own; it needs to be cultivated and fed. This starts with the way a small business is run in the first place. Management and business leaders should always promote an environment and culture that encourages innovation among every employee, not just a select few. Consider it an effort undertaken by the entire organization. Workers need to know that their new ideas and solutions are valued. Only once the company’s culture truly reflects this will it become the norm, and for small businesses, promoting this philosophy is generally easier to do than at a large corporation.
- Dedicated Division
While the whole company should be encouraged to innovate, another smart bet is to have one division specifically dedicated to providing innovative solutions — what some refer to as an innovation incubator. Other parts of the business may come up with creative ideas on the side, but having one division whose job is solely to be creative can pay big dividends in the future. This division should be given free reign to try out new things (within reason, of course). Whether it’s trying out a new flash storage solution or cutting edge cloud tool, few things should be off limits.
- Suggestion Box
Innovative ideas don’t have to just be communicated through high tech means. Having a good old suggestion box may be enough to discover new ideas. Even with a friendly innovative culture, some employees may be too shy to actively voice an idea aloud. Having a suggestion box, while old fashioned, is still a good idea to get ideas from worker who may be more introverted or fear receiving criticism for their thoughts. If a suggestion box still seems too low tech, there are electronic means of cultivating the same principle.
- Predictive Analytics
Big data seems to be used for all sorts of things these days, and promoting innovation just happens to be one of them. Big data when used for predictive analytics can lead to many important benefits, from lower costs to additional revenue. Predictive analytics can also identify trends before they happen, allowing businesses to plan things out and discover innovative solutions well ahead of the rest of the pack. In other words, predictive analytics and other big data tools like Apache Pig make it possible for companies to free up more resources and personnel for innovative projects and tasks.
- Government Help
A number of government initiatives are available for small businesses to help with innovation, provided that they are aware of them. The Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) is just one example of a way that small businesses can get added funding to look into special innovation that want to pursue. Think of it as a way for smaller companies to enhance certain endeavors that they are already working on or would like to work on.
Improving innovation should always be a goal for any company, particularly small businesses. Since smaller organization usually have to compete against larger, more established companies, the best way to do so is through a more innovative strategy or product. Encouraging more innovation within a small businesses is of vital importance. It’s a way to get noticed while also helping the company flourish. In some cases, it could very well be the difference between years of success and closing the business’s doors.
About the Author
Rick Delgado is a technology commentator and writer.