Everyone has heard the edict: Innovate or die. Innovation can appear to be a daunting task, but rather than cause heart tremors, it’s better to break down the term into what it really means.
An "innovation" doesn't have to mean adopting all the newest technologies or completely revamping your operation. Rather, a steady stream of tiny incremental innovations can be an incredibly powerful approach, says Patrick Stroh.
Stroh is the author of Advancing Innovation: Galvanizing, Enabling & Measuring for Innovation Value! He says an innovation can be a revamped business process or a tweak to a production technique or a change in the way you work with a supplier. It’s more effective to “hardwire your culture” so your employees and managers are driven to constantly look for small and medium-size innovations versus complete overhauls of systems.
Here are seven advantages and benefits to implementing small innovations in your operation.
1. Quick and easy to implement
Small changes to best management practices or systems often don’t require extra time and energy on the part of your employees. Stroh says, "If the choice is a) stop what you're doing and implement some big, complex new innovation, or b) maintain the status quo, guess what? Most will choose the status quo—and find themselves on the slow slide toward irrelevance." But if you implement small changes incrementally, you’re more likely to see continual improvement.
2. Can be (relatively) inexpensive
Most small innovations require smaller investments up front. In addition, they're far more "forgiving" in terms of mistakes, says Stroh. For many companies, pouring a lot of money into new equipment or systems without proper staff training and planning would be catastrophic.
3. Improve the work environment
No one knows how to solve a problem better than the employee who experiences it firsthand, and they are likely to be the one whom benefits from an improvement. Plus, by encouraging employees to be problem solvers, you’re elevating their level of empowerment. You’ll increase loyalty and engagement as a result. "An employee-driven process innovation may improve efficiency and productivity," Stroh says.
4. Spark “customer-centric” thinking
Every innovation should go through a thought process to determine whether or not it creates value. This litmus test helps employees focus on the end result, whether your customer is the packer, another producer to whom you send isowean pigs, or the end customer – the consumer. Employees at all levels will start noticing opportunities to add value.
5. Increase engagement and participation
Making everyone responsible for advancing innovation will have a significant impact on engagement and will improve how people feel about their contribution to your operation. It’s well documented that when workers are involved in decision-making and have control over their work responsibilities, buy-in and enthusiasm increase. It also will help you identify employees who differentiate themselves as creative thinkers and innovators, because you’ve provided them with new opportunities.
6. Enjoy quick wins
Stroh says when employees think up small innovations and then see them quickly implemented, results are evident right away. They experience the benefits, enjoy the praise, and hence, have more self-confidence. They are inspired to repeat the process. "Success begets more success," reminds Stroh. "Encouraging and rewarding small innovations is a good way to keep the success coming." Small innovations help build momentum and boost morale.
7. Small innovations, over time, add up
A focus on small innovations can dramatically increase the brainpower being directed toward innovation. As the self-perpetuating one-small-innovation-leads-to-another cycle rolls on, people's skills get sharper, and their drive to innovate grows.
Focusing on small innovations is an effective way to involve employees in the end goal of your business, which leads to steady and continual improvement in systems and processes. Searching for new innovations becomes a daily mindset, and elevates employees to do their best, and that leads to success for your business.