There’s a common misconception that innovation is just for large companies.  However, identifying and developing creative ideas can benefit companies of all sizes – including small businesses that are just getting started.  Don’t wait until your business grows to a particular size to begin developing an innovation strategy – you may miss some great opportunities.

You don’t need a Research & Development Department or an Engineering Staff to take advantage of creative thinking in your business.  In fact, many small businesses can bring creative ideas to market faster than large corporations because of their smaller size.  Take advantage of the flexibility available to small companies and start the innovation process today.

Here’s all you need to start leveraging innovative ideas:

  1. At least one person willing to spend some time doing “creative thinking”.
  2. At least one “seed” idea.  This “seed” can be a problem or unmet need in your industry or in your own business.  Creative thinking exercises can start with seed ideas to develop potential solutions to these problems or unmet needs.
  3. A way to record the creative ideas (paper/pencil, computer, audio recorder or a white board) – even a napkin and a crayon works (I’ve done this myself several times in restaurants).  If you use a white board, be sure to take a picture of the board before it’s erased or record the ideas using paper or a computer.
  4. A system to evaluate creative ideas.  I have found that a small group of 4-6 people works well for evaluating creative ideas and refining those ideas into products or services that can be implemented in a business.

This is all you need to get started.  You can add more steps and activities as your innovation strategy develops – but keep things simple in the beginning.