The UK business industry has seen an increased appetite for entrepreneurialism and this looks set to be a long-term trend, rather than a short term response to a weak job market. Last year the formation of startups increased by 4.6%, with 608,100 new businesses emerging compared with 581,173 in 2014. Startups are appealing to the new generation of employees because they disrupt the traditional work model, with less of a focus on hierarchies and more on collaboration and openness.
Innovation is important to all companies but the very premise of a startup is based on fresh, new ideas, plus a thirst for risk and transformation. They therefore tend to have a special relationship with innovation. Nevertheless, innovation is risky business and startups need to manage this risk carefully in order to thrive and grow. Here we share our best innovation tips for startups.
1. Research and reevaluation
“We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.” – Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup
Your research and development process should be a relentless and thorough process. Spend substantial time immersing yourself in the marketplace that your company occupies and be astutely aware of your target audience. You should be so tuned in to the wants and needs of your consumers that you can anticipate their needs before they are even aware of them.
2. Evaluate ideas objectively
It is important to constantly re-evaluate your ideas objectively. Being blinded by the story behind an idea is dangerous and it is all too easy to become emotionally attached to an idea. This does not necessarily mean it has merit. Always keep a distance and approach ideas with a critical eye so that only the best concepts make it to fruition, in order to save time and money.
3. It’s not just about the idea
Onboarding investors is a necessity to the vast majority of startups. Investors don’t just invest in ideas, they invest in people. A great idea will only get you so far, therefore you need to consider the wider picture. Investors will want to see evidence of successful innovation and this is not just about generating ideas. It is about curating and implementing them to drive success and growth. You need to demonstrate that you have a solid execution plan in place to make this happen.
4. Practice pitching
It’s all very well having a great idea but you need to be able to sell it. Make pitching ideas internally the norm, so that the process becomes natural and effective. If you cannot convince your colleagues that an idea will be successful, what chance do you stand at convincing the outside world?
5. Establish an innovation culture from the outset
With startups promoting an entrepreneurial spirit, the resulting workplace needs to deliver on this expectation. Establishing an innovation culture right from the outset is key to a successful innovation management strategy. Give employees free reign to be creative and form a safe space for idea generation, where failure is okay and success is rewarded.
“If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” – Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors
6. Schedule time for innovation
Innovation can be one of those tasks that everyone wants to do more of but insists they don’t have the time for. Devoid of deadlines and any sense of pressing urgency, innovation can get pushed to the bottom of your ‘to do’ list pile. However, this is dangerous. Make time for innovation by setting aside regular hours each week. Schedule a weekly brainstorming session or allocate a certain number of weekly hours for employees to spend on innovation. As a company, you’ll be better at finding creative solutions to any problems and will be able to move the business forward as a result.
7. Technology helps
New technology can be expensive but you should never underestimate the wonders it can do for workplace efficiency and productivity. In a constantly connected world, you need the ability to communicate from whenever and wherever you are. We all know that technology is perpetually evolving and it is important that companies stay ahead of the innovation game so as to not get left behind. Embracing the digital world will deliver more benefits to your team and will keep the brand relevant and adaptive.
- Constantly research and reevaluate in order to better understand the marketplace; remember to leave an emotional distance and employ a critical eye.
- Frame any ideas in the wider context of your business goals so that you are selling a realistic plan and not just an idea.
- Always set aside time that can be dedicated to innovation and make the workplace a safe space to do so.
- Consider introducing new softwares and technologies into your business to make processes more efficient and productive.