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How to build a culture of innovation for SMEs

Highlights:

The creation of employment and wealth is dependent on technological and scientific breakthroughs.

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nnovation can be best defined as the ability of attaining scientific achievement, which requires something bigger than just an ability to launch a fresh idea and convert it into a working product. It’s not just the technology that is essential, but also the ready availability of financial supplies and business skills that are required for a flawless execution. In addition to this, adequate incentives for an entrepreneurial drive along with accessible protection for intellectual property are also required.


With all the above elements in place, customer-centric innovation is of key importance. As compared to the earlier times, customers throughout the world, right from the middle classes of emerging economies to the stringently selected consumers and businesses of established markets are technologically empowered and have more options to choose from. This presents a two-headed challenge for SMEs and further cements the need to innovate. SMEs should ideally work closely with customers to meet their satisfaction levels along with ever-changing demands.


With the evolution of both technology and customer expectations, there is a need for business transformation too. In order to remain competitive, a business culture fostering innovation must be created. While none can force creativity, it is always possible to apply some simple changes in the workplace that can shift the culture at SMEs. Following are three ways to initiate such culture in workplace:


  1. Hire diverse talent – Having a right set of employees in the fold is the first step to creating cultural innovation. Look for trustworthy and self-motivating talent having diverse work backgrounds and personalities. Workforce diversity helps in the infusion of fresh ideas and brings in a variety of business perspectives.

  2. Offering space for fresh thinking at work – Once a diverse and trusted workforce is established, it is necessary to let them have their own time to work creatively. Depending upon the business structure, a breathing room should be built in a day or week to allow the employees explore fresh ideas. For instance, if there is an employee who can bring out her best thinking while taking a walk or at the local park or, allow her an hour to play a medley with her thoughts. Then, form a way to facilitate the sharing and collaboration of ideas between other team members like, note cards at the dining table or a Google doc accessible to entire office.

  3. Develop tolerance level for blunders – No business owner will be interested in investing time and funds in things that are going nowhere. But still, it is necessary to know that failure is a part of innovation. Workers should be comfortable knowing not every idea is expected to be a home run. If there is a fear of the wrath on any project not panning out, employers will fall short of exploring new ideas. Ways to measure preliminary results and test initiatives should be researched and developed prior to pouring efforts into pursuing them.

In short, a self-sustaining and dynamic culture of innovation is required. In a global economy driven by highly empowered consumers, the small and midsized firms must look up for ways to stand out from their competitors by building stronger relationships with their customers. While technology does help create the requisite scale of innovation, matching consumers’ evolving needs should be the first priority to stay relevant in today’s market


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