These days, getting ahead in business is all about keeping on top of the latest trends. But it’s not just about what’s popular with consumers – to keep the competitive edge, you’ll need to know what’s new behind the scenes too. So, here are our top ways in which you can keep innovating within your business.
Although it can be easy to think of innovation in terms of technology, your employees can also be an important source of workplace creativity. In order to encourage bright new ideas, consider running workshops or brainstorming sessions that are designed to unleash your team’s full potential. These don't even need to be related to the business. Many solutions and new ideas come from something completely unrelated.
Procter & Gamble, for instance, found a way to reduce the wrinkles in shirts fresh out of the dryer by starting with a polymer invented by a computer chip expert at a European university.
Get involved with your local community
It's always great to have new faces at Seymour Place so we are grateful to our volunteers from #primesight for serving up breakfast to our clients this morning. You are a huge help and a big part of us running smoothly today. Thank you! #socialgood #cause #volunteer #4change #dogood #nonprofit #charity #cause #csr #changemakers #socialbusiness #homeless #homelesscharity #thankyou #thankful #thankfulthursday #dosomethingfornothing
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Arranging days where your team can give back to the local community or to charity is a great way of getting employees to talk and collaborate away from their desk and meeting rooms.
This gives them room to breathe, try new skills and speak to coworkers in a completely different setting. However, try and stick to team-based activities like improving the local community centre, charity walks or volunteering at a kitchen like these guys did at WLM Seymour Place. This has inspired Expend to start thinking about what we can do in our local community.
Some top, forward-thinking companies allow employees to spend a certain amount of their working time on new ideas and even on their own projects. It may sound counter-intuitive from a small business perspective, but such an approach has been proven to attract the best and brightest – and helps your company benefit from creative individuals while giving them the opportunity to grow.
Gmail was born thanks to this approach. That said, Yoram Solomon from Inc. believes that “The greatest ideas come from companies who allow their people to try new things and fail without consequences”.
Listen to your customers
It seems obvious, but spend time building rapport with your customers, listen to their needs and explore how you can meet them. At Expend, we always ask our users what they like, but more importantly what they don’t like and what features they'd like to see. This has had a meaningful impact on our company priorities.
Some of the best ideas can come from the people and places you least expect, but they won’t always come to you – sometimes you have to track them down. Try to network as much as possible with an open mind, even in the most unlikely situations. You never know when inspiration might come from.
The popular networking website Meetup offers a huge range of opportunities to network and is a great place to start. (It was set up after 9/11 and the site's co-founder Scott Heiferman publicly stated that the manner in which people in New York City came together in the aftermath of that traumatic event inspired him to use the Internet to make it easier for people to connect with strangers in their community.) So if there isn't a networking event for you, perhaps you could set one up?
If your business feels stuck in the past, there might be a reason for that. While it can be easy – and sometimes sensible – to stick to what you know, true innovation comes from taking risks. Luckily, you don’t need to change your whole business model. Do the research and consider taking a chance on that new product or start approaching a different target market – the results might surprise you.
Utilise the latest solutions
Innovation comes in many shapes and sizes, and there’s no harm in utilising some of the exciting technology that’s on the market today.
A prime example (of course) is Expend’s expenses solution. It’s already helping a growing number of companies, self-employed people and freelancers revolutionise their finances, freeing up valuable time for them to focus on what matters to their business.