A quick flip through the recent covers of Fast Company magazine is a simple indicator of how innovation is top of mind for cutting-edge businesses. In fact, one of the feature articles, The United States of Innovation by Jeff Chu and Margaret Downing, highlights creative and effective businesses from every city, with Houston as the City of the Year—I take pleasure in it being in the South—but back to business.
According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, to innovate is “to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas or products.” Stated at its core, the Latin root for innovate means “to renew.”
I believe most small business owners have some knowledge of renewal, as well as a desire to implement creative and effective change. But sometimes we need a little push. Innovation doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be fresh and effective. In three interesting articles, Anita Campbell and two of our Small Business Trends experts have provided different ways of figuring out how to make your business new again.
Clouds & Innovation
In “The Lost Art of Studying the Clouds,” John Mariotti challenges the small business owner to slow down. He’s asking for five minutes of your time. He doesn’t want it for himself. He wants you to use it like you did when you were a child. In a world of virtual computing, John asks that you remember “the kind of clouds that form in the sky to show us an infinite number of patterns limited only by our eyesight and our vision.”
He suggests that creative ideas to change your business could be in the clouds. John believes that this exercise in creativity “uses the visualization skills that are so essential to innovation.” Check out the challenge at the end of his article and, like John, you just may find some of your greatest ideas while “watching the clouds drift by.”
Age & Innovation
“As business owners, we’re not seeking innovation for innovation’s sake. We’re seeking innovative ideas that have commercial potential – that can be applied in practical ways to create new products, develop new services or enable us to run our businesses better.” ~ Anita Campbell in “Are You Too Old to Be Innovative?”
Anita highlights the idea put forth by consultant Greg Farley that age is a benefit to innovation. She says, “People who don’t have a lot of experience in your business, so the argument goes, are more likely to think in unusual ways.” She mentions that in order “to bridge the gap between those out-of-the-box, innovative ideas and the practical reality of putting product in the box, you need people with experience and knowledge of your industry and your business. And those are likely to be older people.”
While Anita doesn’t wholeheartedly agree with Farley on every point, for me her post highlights the fact that there is a place for age in trendsetting and impacting creative culture.
I like the way this is going. Could it be true – that I can have my head in the clouds and can age in style? And all of it is potentially good for business? Hmmm. Let’s not stop there.
Ivana Taylor in “Are Authentic Business Owners Happier?” challenges us to “Be yourself when you’re marketing, because the alternative is just too expensive.” While she doesn’t highlight the word innovation in this article, it does feel like the best kind of creativity there is: the one that comes from being you.
Ivana says that “being human and authentic has proven to be an insanely effective strategy for building a successful business.” And then she lays out an Authenticity Challenge for 2011. She believes that you can “structure your business in a way that is 100 percent in line with who you are as a person, your values, your beliefs, and those little things that light you up and make you the lovable, amazing person that you are.” I’m taking her up on it.