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If your business is not moving ahead, it’s going backwards – stagnation is the enemy of progress.

You may think everything is going well with your business – that change isn’t needed because you don’t fix things that aren’t broken – but that ‘old chestnut’ doesn’t apply to every situation. Maybe it works when you’re talking about something mechanical like a car, but for dynamic enterprises like your business, the rule doesn’t necessarily apply.

Innovation is an essential component of success. Leaving things as they are assumes that there’s nothing that could be improved. While you may be running your business well, there are always aspects that could be improved.

Innovation is simply recognising that fact and doing something about it. When innovation is applied creatively, it can have a big impact on your bottom line.

While the benefits of an innovative approach to business are obvious, actually achieving it isn’t easy. There is no magic formula, but innovations should be the product of true inspiration to be effective. These steps can help open the door to innovation.

Unique selling points

Your unique selling point (USP) is the one benefit that separates you from your competition. This is the reason that your customers choose you over anyone else. If you’re not sure what your USP is, a little investigation could help you discover it. Think carefully about what separates your product or service offering from your competitors. Innovation itself could be your unique selling point – if you’re constantly adapting your processes and products to create a better customer experience, the differences could really make you stand out.

Responding to your competition

This is a driving force for innovation. The open marketplace means you are constantly battling for your share of customers against both experienced older competitors and hungry new organisations. You need to stay on top of what they are doing. If they improve their customer’s experience, it can identify shortcomings in your own approach. When you see problems, it’s time to innovate and fix it.

Creativity

The hardest part of innovation is the creativity that is required to drive it. First, set yourself a clear objective. If you have something specific to work towards, it can help you hone in on what needs improvement. Ensure your team knows what you’re working towards and explain to them why it’s essential to keep improving and stay ahead of the pack. Establish a climate of change and encourage ideas from your staff. Ask them to find new ways that they could improve their service and processes.

Invest in research

If you’re struggling to identify areas for improvement, research can help. It can be as simple as talking to your customers about their attitudes and experiences, conducting an online survey or asking your staff members if there’s anything they think should be improved. The answers to these questions can help you focus on the main areas of concern. Taking customer’s advice and responding with innovative solutions can improve turnover. Listening to your staff improves loyalty.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

When you have an idea, it’s tempting to toss it around for a few days. If you think it could be effective, test it in practice and see what happens. If something works, stick with it and if not, it’s a short trip back to the drawing board.

Grants and support 

The Government’s Business Initiative provides links to the various grants you can apply for to help your business innovate. The website also has numerous informative articles and links to local advisory centres in your area.

There is a magical component to innovation. It isn’t something you can summon at will or for that matter, switch off once it starts flowing. Innovation involves astute observation and applied creativity. Its pursuit can be an arduous task, but its rewards are considerable.

Innovation should be fostered and encouraged throughout your business through a positive attitude, clear goals, fresh ideas and a consistent desire to improve.

A business that fails to innovate is a business that’s going backwards. Even those at the top of their game continually strive for improvement every single day. So don’t get left behind – start innovating!

Greg Butler

Greg Butler

Greg Butler is a Communications Advisor with <a href="http://www.aami.com.au/business-insurance">Commercial Insurance at Suncorp</a>. He has a long history in the advertising industry, heading the creative departments of local and international agencies, including Clemenger, AdPartners and Leo Burnett. He is <a href="http://www.gio.com.au/business-insurance">experienced in insurance</a> and financial services having worked on accounts including AMP, Standard &amp; Chartered Bank, AGC/Westpac and Sun Alliance.

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