Top ways businesses can be innovative

Stop planning for the big innovation – just do it.

Many SMEs make the mistake of planning innovation into a strategic business plan. This simply won’t work as businesses must remember that commercial transformation does not happen overnight – little steps will result in tangible change. Review every area of your business and think about what can be improved. Also innovation stems from interaction – encourage conversation and ask your employees how they can improve themselves and aspects of the business.

Stop being competitor or market focused

Constantly analysing what other companies are doing will stop you from having the time or head space to be innovative. Instead focus on your customers – after all, their point of view is the most important. When reviewing customer satisfaction, dry market research reports won’t give you a fresh perspective. Instead, go and have a genuine, open conversation with a customer and practice listening instead of ‘selling’. For instance at Direct Healthcare Services, our sales team spend a lot of time in dialogue with potential new customers to uncover their unique challenges and try to determine how we can best configure a solution; this ‘blank page’ approach fosters more open creative problem solving.

Immerse your company in innovation

Sustainable innovation starts with embedding the right culture, and this doesn’t mean having an individual locked away in an R&D room somewhere. Yes, apply innovation to product development, but also apply it to everything you do, including recruitment, marketing and engaging with customers. Think about what you’re trying to achieve and utilise the resources – staff and technology – to reach your goals. Regular business assessment should underpin everything you do and shape your strategy. For example, we had an excellent product for years that outperformed competitor products at a lower cost. However, it wasn’t until we switched to more innovative marketing initiatives and engaged in a different way with our customers that true results were generated.

Be open to the younger generation

Younger staff may not have vast experience, but they do often have fresh energy and perspective and it’s absolutely critical to harness this. At Direct Healthcare Services we encourage all staff to find ways to improve everything we do. For instance, a 22 year-old woman who worked as a sewing machinist was invited to production meetings as cover when her Supervisor was on leave. With refreshing honesty and curiosity, she questioned every process and suggested solutions to every challenge. In some businesses it would be explained why certain things were in place and such input from an inexperienced team members would be dismissed. However we promoted this team member to run production and encouraged her to maintain her stance of challenging everything we do. As a result, production capacity soared, waste was reduced, quality issues stopped and we never looked back.

Let people fail

Staff need to be able to follow ideas through and even after rigorous internal challenging, some might fail. Failures are sometimes necessary in order to gain the right, fresh perspective. Great ideas are often borne out of difficulty and when a team member is given responsibility to solve a problem, they may suggest better ways of working, resulting in greater team confidence and engagement.