You’ve probably heard the old business saying, “Innovate or die”. It’s been around for a long time. But, the idea it represents has been around a lot longer. The concept is as old as business and commerce itself.
A horse’s ability to work is dramatically decreased without “shoes”. Thousands of years ago Asian horsemen imaginatively used leather and plants to make booties for their mounts, and changed the world. Horses were able to transport goods further and more efficiently, opening up new trading opportunities.
The horse’s important place in history had a good, long run until Henry Ford made them obsolete. He looked at the automobile and re-imagined the manufacturing process. His innovation radically changed the way business was conducted throughout the world, again.
Imagination stimulates innovation, which increases your business’s chances of survival. Just as we can learn from Ford and the ancient horseman what to do, we can also learn from Blockbuster, Woolworth, Bethlehem Steel and Polaroid what not to do.
Unfortunately, many of today’s small business owners feel like they “don’t have time to think”, let alone imagine or innovate something. They believe they aren’t even keeping up, forget about getting ahead. They identify being discouraged and frustrated because they’re falling further behind their competitors each year.
So, what can you do? How do you learn how to imagine and innovate?
Identify your strengths and interests. Before you made your first dollar you had to imagine your business into existence. In the beginning, it’s easier to put good ideas into place because they’re part of your areas of expertise (plumbing) and passion (customer service). But, over time, you can lose your enthusiasm in routine tasks and problems.
The area to re-start the innovating process is the one you do well in and enjoy (i.e. mechanically inclined owners redesigning machining processes, people oriented ones creating customer service programs, number’s guys developing better bidding systems). The more you work your innovating muscle the stronger it’ll become, and then you can move out of your comfort zone into more challenging areas.
Look for inspiration and be willing to recognize it when you see it. Stimulating the Imagination is important to a business’s success. It sparks creativity and inspiration, which lead to ideas, which turn into actions. Smart entrepreneurs understand the importance of this process and actively pursue it.
There’s no limit to the places where a good idea might come from – trade shows, industry magazines, customers, employees, competitors, networking, web sites or Little League games. Innovative people seek out ways to have their minds jump started by others. As Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”.
Interact, listen and learn. Get out from behind your desk, get out of the office, ignore all electronic devices and talk to people. There’s no replacement for talking and listening to other people. Put your ego aside, recognize that others have good ideas too and be open to learning from them. The biggest barrier to success is thinking you do, or have too, know everything.
Following these 3 simple, but not easy, steps will automatically put you ahead of your competitors; because chances are they’re not following them. It’ll take time and perseverance to develop these new habits, but it’s worth it. Imagination and innovation gives people the ability to see a future which doesn’t exist and the ideas for getting there.
At Cogent Analytics, we never stop looking for ways to improve your business and neither should you. So, check out some of our other posts for helpful business information: