Innovation is a key element of any business, large or small. Yet, many tend to think of innovation as only the application of new technologies and application of research and development. Doing things differently, a better and more cost efficient way is what innovation in small business can be. So what does it mean by innovation in small business?
Drucker (1985) defined innovation as ‘the means by which the entrepreneur creates new wealth producing resources or endows existing resources with enhanced potential for creating wealth’. It means companies implement a series of changes to gain a competitive edge over their rivals and the market, as well as increase revenues through these innovations. Before embarking on innovation, small businesses should have the capacity to access new information and turn it into knowledge, and create procedures and resources to apply the knowledge for making use of opportunities.
Innovation in small business must be looked upon as a process that transcends all components of a business. Changing one thing and hoping that the other parts stay the same is expecting the impossible, because innovation brings change throughout the organization. It means human resources, operations, accounts, sales and all other key elements in an organization. It can be difficult to implement innovative practice in small business as most of these processes are done by the business owner/managers. But it is not impossible.
There are six stages to the implementation of innovation.
- Defining the strategic intent.
- Searching for ideas and pathways.
- Mapping the development process.
- Application of decision-making processes.
- Implementation of the decision.
- Reviewing to learn.
Usually the process of innovating is limited to the business manager doing it unconsciously, seeking a better way to do things or make more money. However, if the innovation process is implemented formally, it has a better chance of being successful.
What can you do to begin making innovation a part of your small business strategy? Demystify innovation and what it means to the business, understanding how it can affect and enhance your business. Hire a technical advisor or someone who is a specialist within the field your business is in. This will provide the necessary guidance on any radical new technologies you otherwise wouldn’t be able to implement formally through research and development. Identify industries and fellow entrepreneurs who are like-minded and seek innovation as key component to the development and sustainability of their businesses. Network with them and see how working relationships can benefit each other while helping your organization grow and exploit opportunities usually can’t be achieved on your own.
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