Keeping up with current trends isn’t enough in today’s fast-paced world. For businesses to truly thrive, innovation is essential. Innovation can improve or introduce new business models, products and/or processes. It can also make your current processes more efficient and help reduce costs. All of this, in turn, can keep customers coming back for more.

Of course, fostering innovation is sometimes easier said than done. The following are some things that businesses can do to help.

Focus on the Right Areas  

Rather than thinking of innovation in terms of a singular product or technology adoption that will solve all your problems, keep the door to innovation open in the areas of your business that could most benefit from it. These commonly include: 

  • Revenue: Just because a singular point of transaction works this month doesn’t mean a subscription-based offering won’t be popular later. Pay attention to how other companies are charging for their services and ask your customers for feedback on how they prefer to make payments or pay for their services and update accordingly.
  • Products: You wouldn’t get rid of your most popular service or item, but that doesn’t mean you can’t branch out regarding what you offer and/or produce. Pay attention to opportunities for exciting ways to surprise your customers with new products or services when it makes sense to do so.
  • Business Model: Don’t be afraid to throw out the book completely if it doesn’t make sense or serve you anymore. If in-office business is down, consider home visits. If you’ve always had a storefront but moving to an online-only or a third-party seller would save you money, it may be time to make the shift.

Get the Right Input

Advice from your staff and stakeholders can help guide you in the right direction, but feedback from your customers is equally as essential. Offer incentives for customers who leave input through things like online reviews, surveys, calling customer service numbers or sending emails. In this case, it can be especially helpful to reach out to people who are no longer your customers to find out why they stopped using your business, and what sort of innovation the companies that now get their business are adopting.

It’s also helpful to pay attention to what other people in your field — or those who are known for their innovative approach to business — are doing. Rather than reinventing the wheel, replicating the success of others to drive innovation within your own business — even if that involves tweaking the idea somewhat — is a good place to start.

Foster an Atmosphere that Applauds Innovative Thinking

Rather than just expecting your employees to come to you with innovative ideas, actively seek them out. This could mean allowing employees to devote a percentage of their workday to researching the areas of innovation that interest them most, or creating a reward system that celebrates successfully implemented innovative ideas. When employees do come up with innovative ideas, be sure they know where to go with those ideas. Whether that’s through a weekly or monthly meeting to gather ideas or by appointing a Head Innovation Engineer, ideas that aren’t shared due to a lack of organization are sure to include missed opportunities.

Innovation can come from unexpected places. This is why business leaders need to not only stay on top of current trends, but also forecast into the future and consider any issues that might be solved through a little innovative thinking. The above suggestions — along with a lot of flexibility and a focus on hiring staff that thinks outside of the box — can help.