I believe most innovations in business come about as a means of solving a recurring problem. A perfect example, adopting the practice of covering shoes of workers or delivery crews with paper disposable booties to eliminate complaints about tracking dirt into customers’ homes.
Being innovative in business usually starts with a question such as, “How can we eliminate this complaint?” or “How can we increase our profits without increasing our prices?” Sometimes it’s simply “How do we attract or retain more customers?” Each quarter, pick ONE question and ask it repeatedly.
Ask it of your team. Ask it of your vendors. Ask it of friends in non-related businesses phrased as “How do you do XYZ?” Even ask it of the internet. Type the question into your favorite search engine and see what you get for results. You may find an article in an industry or general business publication with useful tips and suggestions.
Ask the question repeatedly. Ask it at your next team meeting, tell them you will ask it again at your next meeting so they can give it some thought, then be sure you do! Put it on the top of the agenda if you circulate one before meetings. Collect all the ideas from all these different sources and see what may work for your business.
If the answer to increasing profits without raising prices is to cut costs, assign each person the task of cutting or saving some cost in their area. That may result in more competitive shopping for office supplies or business insurance. It may include eliminating rarely used services of products. Reward great ideas with gift cards, even $5 cards at your neighborhood coffee shop to encourage even more innovative ideas.
Innovation is not a switch you turn on by simply saying “We need to be more innovative.” Rather it is a process. Pick one area at a time and focus attention on it until you have found an idea to solve a problem. Monitor results during and after implementation to insure you are getting the expected results and adjust as needed. Often even the best ideas need tweaking which is why it’s best to tackle only ONE issue at a time.