How to Foster Innovation in Your Small Business

As the owner of a small business, you no doubt have limited budgets to invest in various different areas of your venture. As such, one of the key ways to grow your organization is through encouraging employees to be more productive, engaged, and creative than ever.  

Innovation, in particular, is what drives many companies forward, and something you shouldn’t undervalue. Thankfully, there are strategies you can use to help your workforce become more creative and leading edge today 


Be Supportive 

If you want your team to think outside the box, they need to feel safe enough to do so. This means you must encourage innovation from the top down and support employees to take risks and try new things. If people worry that they could be penalized for creative solutions that don’t work out, or made to seem foolish or rebuked for innovative contributions, they won’t be motivated look at things with fresh eyes.   

To be a supportive boss in this arena, concentrate on creating a happy, positive, inclusive corporate culture. Give your staff members regular feedback that’s constructive but fair. Includes praise, too, for things done well. Also, implement some of the ideas your team come up with. Doing this shows them their suggestions are listened to, valued, and actioned. When they can see that you take their innovations seriously, employees will try harder to have an innovative mindset.  

Furthermore, look for ways to help workers learn new things and go down paths that interest them. For example, bring in inspirational speakers or arrange for your team to get access to regular training or to have time off each month to spend on projects of their choice. To be creative, people need exposure to new ideas and situations, and to have the time, flexibility, and security to challenge themselves to grow and pursue passions.  


Reward Creativity 

A helpful way to support your team in their innovative thinking is through rewards. Everyone loves receiving awards, gifts, bonuses, free meals, massages, extra time off work, and the like. If you give people these little extras when you notice them coming up with creative ideas, they’ll feel encouraged to keep doing so 

You could hand out employee recognition awards to your most creative workers each quarter, or give people presents or perks throughout the year, when you feel the time is right. Remember, though, to reward people for their efforts and ideas, not necessarily for the successes that come from innovations.  

It typically takes many failed options for just one to succeed, so only rewarding people who create a win gives the wrong impression. Don’t make people think that innovation is only valued if it brings in more money. Of course, this is the goal but it’s necessary to play the numbers game with creative ideas, so not every one is successful 


Set Up Diverse Teams 

Another tip for fostering an innovative workplace is to set up diverse teams. Encourage “cross-pollination” between employees, whereby different people get to work with each other on projects across the year. While individuals certainly arrive at interesting concepts and solutions by themselves, in most businesses, creativity thrives when team members get to know and work with colleagues they haven’t collaborated with in the past. As you set up new teams to tackle different projects, then, mix and match people from varied departments and backgrounds.  

Putting together people with diverse career experience, training, and strengths and weaknesses is a surefire way to encourage unexpected ideas to arise. However, do make sure that everyone in the team is given equal input and responsibility, so all have a voice and the group benefits from hearing each perspective 


Focus on Specific Techniques to Boost Innovative Thinking 

There are also specific creativity techniques your employees can utilize at work to boost their innovative thinking. For example, brainstorming is an oldie but goodie that, when done effectively, can really yield results. Put teams in groups to bounce ideas off each other, with the strict instruction that no ideas are to be dismissed or shut down. In these sessions, there are no bad ideas; instead, it’s all about letting the creative mind play. With this state of mind the rational brain is put to one side and people can become truly innovative 

Another tip is to give your workers limitations when working on solutions for problems or new product or service ideas. Research shows that having constraints to work around actually make people think more laterally. These “must have” or “cannot” criteria can be serious, such as saying a product has to be scaled down or the cheapest item yet for the company to make. 

Alternatively, the criteria might be lighthearted and fun, there simply to encourage diverse thinking. Our brains have to work harder to get around limits, so this type of structure leads to more surprising results.  

Innovation in a business is vital if you want to stay around for a long time and become more profitable. Get your team involved in making this happen, and you should soon start to see the results you dream of