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10 best practices for small business innovation

“Innovate or die” is part of the new lingo in the digital marketplace of ideas and businesses today are buying it up like there’s no tomorrow! The urgency behind the innovation craze is furthered by the technological renaissance in recent years. Innovation was once the exclusive domain of enterprises with large R&D budgets. But those days are over. New breakthroughs in collaboration tools, open source systems, mobile platforms, and SaaS solutions have put the latest technologies in the hands of everyone. In fact, the small guys can leverage the latest technologies and resources more effectively than their larger counterparts. When it comes to innovation there’s a distinct advantage to not being strapped down by big, legacy systems and excessive processes, policies, and protocols. Innovation thrives on flexible, agile, and open environments that provide people with the room to explore new ideas and concepts.




There is no magic pill or quick fix or easy path to innovation. It takes time, effort, focus, and perhaps a bit of luck. But there are guiding principles that can help promote an innovation culture inside your organization, one where employees feel empowered to think and act innovatively on the job.

In the following we’ve outlined 10 best practices that you can adopt to help steer your small business in the right direction towards an innovation mind-set that encourages creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

Don’t expect to reinvent the wheel: Innovation doesn’t imply creating something new and novel. Look first at how to take an existing process and make it better!

Challenge convention: Innovation and convention don’t mix; promote a culture that makes it safe to ask new questions and question old traditions.

Keep the end result in mind: Don’t assume a fixed result endpoint but be prepared to pivot and shift your innovation strategy as market dynamics determine.

Don’t languish in the planning stage: A great start can flame out if the team allows planning and logistics to overwhelm the effort. Stay the course, preserve the vision, and finish strong!

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable: The process of innovation will require attributes and attitudes that stretch your comfort zone, but the rewards and outcomes will be well worth it.

Think outside the box: Box? What Box? Too many company structures will impede innovation faster than anything.

Create a small, agile team: A team size of 6 to 10 people makes life easier for everyone as it improves communications, builds trust, and improves overall efficiency.

Leave decision-making in the hands of no more than two people: Consolidating the authority will keep the innovation process streamlined and less inclined towards company politics.

Research emerging & disruptive markets: Hire or assign someone the role of emerging technology researcher and strategist to study the latest trends and 6-12 month outlooks around the most pressing areas in your vertical.

Put together a 2020 roadmap: Many believe the year 2020 will mark a profound shift in the global business landscape, influenced by rapid changes in demographic, technological, and geopolitical forces. Plan to adopt 2020 as a benchmark to guide and direct new strategies and development goals in the areas of revenue, performance, and customer retention. Ask yourself: “What do I want my business to look like in 6 years?”





Small businesses need to take advantage of the changing times and get onboard with the latest trends in innovation. Decision-makers and key strategists should make periodic assessments of their innovation best practices, recognize the latest disruptive trends in their industries, and do whatever it takes to stay ahead of their competition.

Getting onboard with innovation is the critical first step. Change is never easy and while there is bound to be uncertainly and discomfort at first, the key is to start “doing innovation” today. And then keep right on doing it . . . until innovation becomes the essential ingredient of your business strategy and vision.

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About Jeffrey Walker

Jeff is a business development consultant who specializes in helping businesses grow through technology innovations and solutions. He holds multiple master’s degrees from institutions such as Andrews University and Columbia University, and leverages this background towards empowering people in today’s digital world. He currently works as a research specialist for a Fortune 100 firm in Boston. When not writing on the latest technology trends, Jeff runs a robotics startup called, along with oversight and leadership of - an emerging market assistance company that helps businesses grow through innovation.