From the March 2009 issue of Entrepreneur

In the sink-or-swim environment of startups, daily innovation can weigh heavily on your mind. Here are three ways to think creatively--well past your startup stage.

  1. Since the mid-1990s, small businesses have created 60% to 80% of the net new jobs.

    (Source: SBA)

    Ask better questions. Write down present and future goals for your business, then simplify strategies on how to get there. "It takes effort to think clearly in terms of what's simple, what's practical and what works," says Scott Jeffrey, managing partner at creative problem-solving think tank Nonbox Consulting. Jeffrey and his team asked, "Do we really need an office?" and through brainstorming created a virtual office, giving each member freedom of creative space.
  2. Utilize every facet of your resources to reach a larger audience. A little goes a long way when your assets are constrained, explains Jon Chait, partner at VC firm Dace Ventures. Use free technologies, such as online videos, social networking and discussion forums, to get your name out when you're in a crunch. Also, pick and choose when to splurge on a big advertisement in a media outlet.
  3. Seek feedback. Your main goal is to benefit your customers, so go directly to the source and ask what they're looking for. Keep your eyes and ears open with online surveys, research your competitors' moves and successes, and put yourself in the customer's shoes. Jeffrey says focusing on a core customer group can make you strong competition for the dominant players in that industry.