Beware the three innovation killers!

Like me, there’s a very good chance that on your bookshelf are titles such as “Innovate or Die”, “the Radical Innovator” or “the Next Big Game-Changing, Competition Beating Idea.” Innovation is massively important, especially for small business, because it helps us grow, outpace our competition and boost our bottom line. But in pursuing our need and lust for innovation there lie a number of traps – or innovation killers – that actually hinder and stop innovation in its tracks.

  1. The Uber effect

There is the myth out there that in order to be successful we need to be radically disruptive, that we need to find the next big innovation and come up with the next Uber business model or reinvent the iPhone. And that simply isn’t true.

Who said that innovation had to be about radical large scale disruption?

Many small businesses believe that success and profitable growth rely on finding that one “Eureka” idea, but business success comes from incremental innovation, consistently finding ways to do things better and having a passion for constant improvement. Innovation doesn’t need to be big or explosive, it simply needs to work, be effective and make your business money.

We need to change our view of innovation from being explosive and large-scale to being achievable, effective and consistent.

  1. Complexity

Most people see innovation as too complex, too costly, too risky, too time consuming.

In companies all over the planet are innovation champions with a myriad of innovation degrees and various models and systems that measure, test, analyse, re-measure and re-test. All are valid and effective. Thing is, ask your people to be innovative and they’ll run because there is someone up on level three who does that, and they are way too busy to get involved anyway.

But give your people a simple achievable process and back it up with a culture to support them and they will perform miracles. Simply ask them to find a problem or a gap, come up with a solution, act on it and gauge whether it works or not. When you do that you’ll have an endless supply of innovative solutions.

3: Micromanagement

Here’s the deal: if you want innovation as part of your business on an everyday basis, then you need to give your people permission to not just find innovative solutions but let them act of those solutions and stuff those solutions up as well.

If you want to suppress the desire of your team to be constantly finding better ways of doing things better, then all you need to do is look over their shoulders and tell them how to do everything. It is one thing to give a directive for consistent, incremental innovation to your people, but it’s another thing entirely to let them take the initiative and the responsibility. Give them permission to not just have ideas but also put them in place. Let them know it’s okay to try something and get it wrong as long as they learn from mistakes.

Small-business success isn’t a result of finding a single “Eureka” idea – it’s the culmination of many small changes and small innovations that improve everything you do. Business success is a game of inches.

Nigel Collin, Business Coach and Author of “Game of Inches”

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