Keep Driving Innovation In Your Business With These Five Steps

7 May 2021

Doesn’t it feel like things are finally starting to move in the right direction? The summer is coming in with better weather and brighter days, high street businesses are starting to open their doors, and we are finally starting to be able to see our friends and family. For many businesses, the last year or so has been about survival, doing whatever it takes to keep the lights on and stay afloat in a time of unprecedented turbulence. Now that things are starting to finally get back to, dare we say it, normal, it is time for us all to shake off the “just keep going” attitude and start to think carefully about how we can drive innovation.

The landscape may be looking a little more promising for businesses but there is still an awful lot of uncertainty out there. Indeed, one of the very few things that we can take for granted is that there will be a lot of fierce competition. Any business that wants to thrive, as opposed to merely surviving, in the months ahead will need to look to grow, to improve, and to take bold steps forward. If you want to drive innovation and creative thinking in your business, here are just a few of the options available to you.

Make More Time For Your Employees To Brainstorm

We are very much aware that this is easier said than done. After all, if you have too much time on your hands, then the chances are that someone is not doing their job properly. But while it is true that the best ideas can come at the very last possible moment when you are pushed into a corner, this is far from a sustainable approach. It is also not one that anyone should actually plan for.

With that in mind, why not take a look at your timetable and see what time can be carved out for a regular ideas and creativity session? Different managers favour different approaches, from the “same time next week” boardroom chat where everyone comes rigorously prepared, to something considerably less structured where the agenda is less important than the energy. The key takeaway here is that there should be a time where no other business is to be discussed, a time that is sacrosanct and purely for the discussion of new ideas. Once that is in place, the creativity can start to flow without the threat of disruption.

Identify Problem Areas

There will always be pressing fires to put out. This was true long before the pandemic hit, and it will be true when we’re dealing with the next major global issue. No matter how carefully you plan or how meticulously you run your business, there will always be something that will distract you from fixing the smaller issues. The smaller issues that, while serious in their own way, are not the thing that is going to make it impossible for the business to move forward tomorrow.

However, while these problems may not be the reason for alarm bells sounding today, these lingering problems do have the potential to hinder growth in the long run. When you are creating your planning sessions, make sure that you have a clear idea of which areas are holding you back. Don’t be afraid to ask your employees for their input either, as they may well have a clearer idea of the little things causing big disruption.

Give Everyone The Chance To Contribute

Over time, everyone starts to get a little too comfortable in the way that they do things. It’s not that people are lazy and it’s not that they are lacking in fresh ideas, but when you are facing the same deadlines week after week and month after month, it is only natural that you start losing that innovative spark. “We know that this method works, and that we can get it done in the time that we have, so let’s just do it this way now and we’ll come up with something new and interesting next time.” Sound familiar?

If you want to try and avoid this pattern from repeating, and repeating again, then it is worth thinking about who is in the room. If you keep having the same meeting with the same personnel, then it stands to reason that the same ideas will continue to resurface. So, if it’s a meeting on creating copy for marketing, for example, why not invite the sales team in to bring their insights? Or people from the design team, who may be able to streamline any ideas early? Innovation can come from the unexpected, and that is exactly what opening up these meetings will foster.

Think About New Ways You Can Learn

Just as new team members can offer new perspectives and ideas, it is also important for you as a leader to keep pushing to improve your own understanding of your business. To look for new areas that you could move into, to see what new approaches could cause tremendous growth, and to see what resources you may already have at your disposal.

We all need to be looking inward to see how we can grow efficiently and (cost) effectively. Seeking out new opportunities for learning can get us to that next level. In this case, for example, a corporate innovation course can show you how to use the things that set your business apart can be the very thing to give you that all-important edge. What’s more, it will also help you to plan how to implement your blue-sky ideas in an environment that is so chaotic and disruptive. With courses provided by some of the world’s most respected academic and business institutions available to take remotely, it would be a worthwhile investment to help plan for your company’s future.

Be Prepared To Take Risks…But Think Carefully Before You Take Them

After more than twelve months of panic and chaos, inviting risk hardly seems like a sensible business strategy. We have spent so much time trying to keep our heads above water, and right now it feels like taking a big swing is more of a dangerous move than ever. But if you want to keep moving forward and growing, you need to accept that there is always going to be an element of risk. New ideas will always come with an element of risk and that should not be a reason to not pursue them. Innovation is always a risk that is worth taking.

However, there is a difference between taking a calculated risk and leaping into the unknown without a parachute. Before you commit to any bold new endeavours, make sure that you have run a risk assessment so that you have a clear idea of what the cost of something going wrong could be. If you find that you are starting to creep into an area where you are no longer comfortable, then it may well be worth walking away before you commit and going back to the drawing board. There are plenty of factors at work beyond the pandemic that are creating economic uncertainty around the world (Brexit being one of the most obvious in the UK and Europe) and you need to ensure that every risk that you take is a calculated one.

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