Use innovation to start or grow your business

Create a more innovative business: top tips


Innovation is fundamental in growing and improving any business. But coming up with fresh ideas and turning them into successful new products or services rarely happens spontaneously. Here's what you can do to help grow your capacity to innovate and use it to drive your business forward.

1. Start small

Radical ideas and game-changing inventions are great, but if you're new to innovation, you may be reluctant to jump in at the deep end. Instead, try focusing your efforts on small, incremental changes that have the potential to improve your existing products, services or business processes. Begin by examining your business and current offering, and identifying areas where small improvements can make the biggest difference. See more on generating innovative ideas.

2. Think differently

If everyone in your industry is doing the same things the same way, think about going against the grain. Can you offer a service or a business model that isn't the norm? Gather insights from your customers, suppliers and industry experts and find an approach that will set you apart and give you a unique value proposition. Find out about researching new product and service ideas.

3. Know your market

Today's markets are constantly shifting. Consumer habits are changing, competition is increasing globally; trends, preferences and opportunities come and go. It's not easy keeping track of it all, but market research and analysis are critical to innovation success. Listen to your audience, size up the competition and continuously look for gaps in the market - you will gain valuable insight that can help you shape and tailor your products and services to better meet the needs of your customers. Here's a summary of ten things you need to know about your customers.

4. Take the initiative

In small businesses, innovation often happens because of necessity, especially when finances are low. While it may not always be possible to divert resources to full time research and development (R&D) activities, investing in R&D and technology can boost your capacity to innovate. Different types of support may be available to help you grow. Read about innovation, research and development grants.

5. Create the right environment

Chances are you're stuck behind your desk, screen or on the phone most of the day busy running your business. Creativity doesn't exactly flourish in such environments. However hard it may be, it's important to create the time and the space to allow yourself to think creatively and mull over new ideas. Designate time away from the daily tasks, encourage collaboration and conversation in your business, be open to taking measured risks and share your successes and failures equally in order to learn and develop. Learn more about the new product development process.

6. Don't get discouraged

The simple truth is, not every idea will pan out. Research suggests that you need at least 50 ideas to get ten potential projects, of which only two will actually be successful, so don't get disheartened. Once you have some ideas in place, consider each for feasibility, costs, potential risks and rewards. If your best efforts don't work out quite as well as you expected, take it as an opportunity to learn and improve on your journey to success. See more on how to research and develop ideas, new products and services.

Support for innovation

Businesses in Northern Ireland can apply to the Innovation Accreditation Programme to receive help with, and recognition for, innovating. Simply complete Innovate NI's online self-assessment questionnaire to join.