One of the things we continually discuss with our business clients, is the importance of taking the time and making the effort to practice innovating. Back in the eighties and nineties, it was referred to as “thinking outside the box” or earlier this century it was, “pushing outside the boundaries”.
While innovation and the process of innovating isn’t necessarily a new concept, it is relevant and important regardless of how it is packaged. Today, innovation is often referred to in terms of the application of technology, however innovation goes far beyond this. The definition for innovation is; “the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value for which customer will pay”. In other words, innovation is about creating value and if you want to be in business, then this is where your focus needs to be.
Innovation involves the deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different value from resources. In other words, innovation can include how you deliver a service, how you create a product, how you use your people assets, how you store your information, etc. The areas in which you can chose to innovate is endless.
Of course, the application of technology can fundamentally change any one of these, however too many times the owners of small business, get caught up in this being the only way and don’t do the simple things that will make a difference.
Let me give you an example. Recently we had a client, who was looking to hire a new person, with little to no experience. They were wanting to get the word out about the position, but also knew that they had more success in the past, when someone was referred to them, rather than simply posting a general ad.
We sat down with the team and looked at how they might look at this in a different way. One of the team members said that there had to be lots of people looking for work, because there seems to be a lot of parents wanting their kids to get a job. To build on that idea, another person joked about how maybe parents would pay to have their kids employed. Everyone laughed and the ideas kept flying.
What innovative idea did they land on? The next day they printed up some cards that said; “Customer Loyalty Bonus – As a valued customer, we want to extend to you this special offer. For this week only, we will give you $10.00 off your next purchase, if you let us help you to find your child a great job working here. All you need to do, is have them drop off their resume before the end of the week.”
Of course, it made people laugh and it was all done in great humor, but it worked incredibly well. Ten clients made sure their kids (or other family) got their resumes over to the store and they hired two. It cost them $100, but it also got people taking about the business, which generated more sales, with people simply wanting to check them out.
Was this a big innovation….not necessarily, however it creates a mindset in an organization and new ideas have the tendency to generate other new ideas. Seeing possibility when no one else can, is a skill worth leveraging.