Every business today is striving to discover the secret formula to innovation success. If they could just capture that formula and put it in a bottle then they’d truly be the company of the century. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) innovation is not that simple. If it was, everyone would be doing it!
True innovation takes talent, discipline, hard work, and sometimes just dumb luck! Remember Edison’s famous statement:
“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Well, the same can effectively be said of innovation and innovators. Those who excel at it may not, in fact, consciously set out to do innovation. In fact, for them it may be such an innate quality that they can’t imagine doing otherwise.
One writer has compared the issues of business growth and innovation to the process of connecting dots. A client may be frustrated that employees are not noticing things that need correcting and seem so obvious to him or her. By analogy, this could exemplify the single difference between the innovator and the ordinary person: one sees the dots and connects them while others 1) didn’t see them or 2) if they did, they didn’t explore, question, or connect any of them.
So, for our purposes, innovation is about teaching people to “connect the dots”; innovation is not all pure talent. While innate abilities certainly help, innovation is fortunately something that can be taught, learned, and reproduced.
The big question then for small business leaders is how to teach employees to “connect the dots” in order to bring value, improvement, and innovation to their workplace? Let’s dig into this topic deeper.
Don’t expect to reinvent the wheel
Businesses should NOT feel the need to start with developing something completely new or novel. There are always current processes that stand to be vastly improved. A great case in point is how Apple became a world leader in the art of innovation. The corporation didn’t invent the first personal computer, MP3 player, or tablet. Rather, through clever marketing and advertising it mastered the art of reinventing how we think of these devices. As one writer well says on this note, “Sometimes the way we present our product is just as important as the product itself.”
In order to innovate effectively don’t feel the need to “invent the next big thing.” Start innovation where you’re at, in your own corner of influence. Don’t look for the new and novel but rather start by examining the old. Look around at existing processes and see where you can apply new techniques to make them more efficient, faster, and more agile. Ask yourself the following question, “Is there a particular task, process, or routine in my job that is particularly painful, time-consuming, manual, and that can be automated?”
One place to start may be your existing customer service process. Review the way you present your brands, products and services and ask yourself, “How can we create a more memorable, smoother, friendlier experience for our customers?”
Company all-employee meetings can provide a great opportunity to generate new synergies and opportunities to brainstorm about innovation possibilities. During these sessions business leaders should always emphasize the importance that each person plays within the company. Be an encourager and give everyone the permission to creatively think of new ways to make his or her job as streamlined and efficient as possible. And recognize and reward them when they do begin to innovate!
To be continued . . .