As a business owner, it is your job to kindle innovation in your workplace. Whether that means you personally sitting down to brainstorm or inspiring your team to do so, it’s your job to ensure that the innovation necessary to drive your business forwards is happening. At the same time, it is your job to ensure that your business remains profitable, that your systems continue to function effectively, and that your customers remain pleased with their experience.

This can seem like a contradiction. On one hand you must shake things up and keep your team thinking outside the box, but on the other hand you must maintain stability and consistency.

This dilemma is common to the small business owners I’ve worked with over the years. Bigger companies and corporations have an advantage in this area, because they can afford to dedicate an individual or even a team strictly to innovation.

Small businesses simply lack the resources to invest in a full time “innovator.”

In addition, a larger business can afford to test new ideas in the marketplace, knowing that if it flops, only a small number of customers will be impacted. And they often have the ability to conduct focus groups and other testing before bringing the idea to the market.

Most small businesses don’t have this luxury… and a failed idea can have disastrous results. This is a scary prospect to an individual who depends on the income generated by the business!

What’s the solution?

Controlled, small scale testing.

Spend time brainstorming on a regular basis. When you’ve identified an idea worth fleshing out, commit the necessary resources to creation and testing. This is no small commitment in most cases, so ensure that you pick only the most promising ideas from your brainstorming sessions.

Then, once you have completed the project (whether it’s a new product, a new package design, a new customer service portal, whatever it may be), commit to testing it on a small group before rushing it to the market. This is where many business owners go wrong – they’re excited, they’ve spent time and money innovating, and they are ready to reap the benefits. This lack of patience can cost you. Instead, present your innovation to a small number of loyal customers (or even friends and family) and ask for their feedback. You may find that the innovation is ready to go as is, you may find that it needs some tweaking… or you may find that it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

This process of brainstorming and small-scale testing can dramatically reduce the risk you face while innovating. It allows you to remove fear from the equation, while still leveraging your creativity and that of your team. Contact me today if you’d like to learn more about this process!

What is your approach to innovation? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!