Small businesses often think about innovation as new invention, research and development or creating and launching new products. Innovation does have elements of all of these however it is not all about new inventions and product launches and small businesses can and do innovate all the time.
Types of Innovation
Incremental innovation focuses on making modest improvements to existing processes, products or services.
Radical innovation involves creating a completely new process or product in response to a market need or opportunity.
Radical innovations tend to come about as a result of careful research and development into a specific issue or problem, and frequently make use of new technology to solve them. These kinds of innovations are often seen as 'breakthrough' innovations, some of which can change the entire way an organisation operates
Combination of Incremental and Radical Innovation
Sometimes the best approach can be to combine radical and incremental innovation. An example of this would be to develop a totally new process to produce and manage an existing product or service. Developing an idea to bundle several products together is also innovation. Examples could be
outsourcing part of your manufacturing process
moving your IT system onto a more flexible platform,to enable work-from-home arrangements or to respond more effectively while on the move.
Some tips on innovations with examples for small businesses:
Find something people want and do it better
Create a story
Step back to move forward
Don’t limit innovation to product development
1. Find Something People Want and do it Better
It doesn't always have to be about complete reinvention. Not every idea is completely original, if you spot a gap in the market to make something better, go for it.
Here is how the company ‘Damn Heels’ saw a gap and need in the market and made a successful business of it. Damn Heels are the brainchild of entrepreneur Hailey Coleman.
Inspired by hobbling home barefoot after a night out in heels, Damn Heels has grown into a collection of classy flats that allow women to conveniently change from their beloved damn heels into comfortable flats without sacrificing style. Foldable, lightweight, flat shoes for slipping on after a night of clubbing in high heels
2. Create a Story
Customers often go to a particular product or business because they can relate to the story behind it. You can tell people what the roots of your business are or you can invent a narrative for your market to believe in. Just think about how you tell the tale: with apps, videos and interactive design there is plenty of scope. It all goes to make your business or brand seem original.
Here is how a Creative Enfield business ‘Daniela Rubino’ wrote a compelling story and ethos behind her business. Daniela Rubino the business owner creates beautiful objects like vases, flower pots and much more for the home from industrial materials such as concrete and metal.
One of Daniela’s big inspirations is Tao Ando, a self-taught Japanese architect who mainly uses concrete. His architectural style is said to create a "haiku" effect, highlighting nothingness and empty space to denote the beauty of simplicity.
Ando’s approach is very admirable as it is so well thought out. This inspired Daniela to think hard about the process of her production Therefore Daniela has a 3 R principle. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The moulds for her products are either pre-formed from plastic (which can be recycled) or handmade using melamine wood or rubber and are reusable; some moulds can be used up to 80 times. The bags of concrete come in paper bags, which are also recycled. Daniela tries to minimise waste as much as she can, if there is surplus concrete she will use it to make new stock, which will be needed in the future.
Daniela’s creations are objects that lend an industrial and quirky aesthetic to homes and gardens.
3. Step Back to Move Forward
Often it is necessary to step back in order to move forward. Small businesses that have reached a plateau and are struggling to grow can often relate to this scenario. The business owners try to do everything in the business themselves. Delegation in the true sense is really necessary to grow the business. Developing a team and trusting and handing responsibility, so the owners can step back, review, refresh and find the time to develop ideas and strategies to lead their business to the next stage.
4. Don’t Limit Innovation to Product Development
Innovation covers every aspect of your business. You can innovate with your products, your services or your business processes, so it’s not all about R&D. Even when it comes to the everyday running of your business you can create incremental innovation.
Finding the right business insurance
Locating or co-locating your business/office space.
Negotiating a supplier deal
Introducing on-line payments
Developing your website
About the Author of this Blog:
Prerana Phadnis is a pragmatic and highly experienced Business Adviser, Mentor and Coach for medium sized businesses. Her approach is both strategic and practical. She has a proven track record of achieving results for clients Several of Prerana’s clients have won the SMART award for Innovation, the Millennium Product award and other Innovation awards. Prerana enjoys working with clients offering innovative products and services in niche and emerging markets. Prerana was nominated as ‘Best Business adviser’ by her clients for a competition by Barclays bank.