“Innovate or die” is a mantra heard often in today’s world of record-breaking technological changes. For large companies, there are software solutions that facilitate management of large-scale innovation pipelines. For smaller companies, however, purchasing an expensive SaaS platform just does not work.
But even with resource constraints, smaller companies do have major advantages in developing and rolling out innovative products: They move fast and are not constrained by the processes and bureaucracy that hinder larger companies.
With these internal tricks, staying innovative can be more than attainable for a smaller company.
1. Don’t develop in a vacuum
Every industry has key moments when big players make major announcements – and those dates can be leveraged from a marketing and development standpoint.
So tailor a solution and plan to coincide with upcoming announcements, as timing will contribute to a positive end result. While this strategy can be risky (the majority of press coverage tends to be around major players), it can pay off in a major way by riding the wave of coverage and becoming part of a larger industry story.
2 Respond to market forces
In addition to planning ahead, there is always “new” news to respond to opportunistically. Sometimes events come in the form of consumer challenges that can be resolved by taking existing assets and presenting them in a different way.
For example, “Celebgate” -- while unfortunate and maddening -- highlighted the need for a service that could safely protect very private pictures from hackers and prying eyes. Capitalizing on an emerging market need and responding quickly can prove to be a successful PR tactic. This does not mean follow every trend, but if the solution can be iterated upon quickly -- it’s worth going for it.
3. Leverage user base
One incredible source of innovation and inspiration is a company’s consumer base. By making a commitment to include users in the development process, they will remain loyal and can rapidly become a vibrant and helpful community of brand advocates, testers and idea generators.
There are multiple ways to accomplish this, such as using surveys to test everything from brand concepts to feature priorities. Providing early access to product releases, highlighting stories in the company blog and even sourcing ideas from users will go a long way towards creating a trusted relationship with the community. Users will hear the struggles as well as celebrate successes, but it is imperative to make the commitment to listen and engage.
4 Make creativity a priority
In the same way that happiness is a choice, so too is creativity and it is something that takes both time and space to cultivate. From hosting bi-weekly creative sessions with the team to taking a stroll through a museum, creativity is a necessary priority that requires attention as well as scheduling.
Creativity, once sprung, can pay back in numerous ways from developing growth-hacked ideas for acquisition and retention to coming up with innovative features to bring to market. The payoff comes not only in the form of competitive advantage but also in happier, healthier teams that feel both stimulated as well as invested in the company’s future offerings.
5. Find the silver lining
Adversity can be an amazing source of innovation. When things get tough, hunker down to find resilience and the solution.
The story of William Kamkwamba is inspiring: a boy from Malawi who, against all odds, taught himself how to build a windmill, providing energy during a time of drought and famine. Not all of us have to overcome such overwhelming obstacles in life, but it’s still possible to apply the same kind of resolve, tenacity and commitment to finding creative solutions.