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By Eric Gelb

Some people associate innovation with Silicon Valley and computers and semiconductors. But innovation means change and advancement, no matter what shape or form it assumes.

And, to grow your business and beat your competition, you need to innovate on a continuing basis--keep changing and developing new products, services and marketing techniques. But, if innovation occurs randomly and emanates out of creativity, how does one build creativity in the work place? How does the small business executive harness, cultivate and nurture innovation?

1. Examine your organization's purpose. Analyze the profit-making process. If you are a service organization and your customers pay you to make their businesses more efficient, you must focus on developing new and more efficient ways to help them make their businesses more profitable.

If your business entails manufacturing, outline, in detail, the manufacturing process from design to production to marketing to sales to collecting accounts receivable. Draw a detailed flow chart that diagrams your operations. Look for bottlenecks and areas where excess costs and excessive production time is spend manufacturing your product. Then, look for ways to improve. Eliminate waste and non-productive activities which detract from your profit-making process.

2. Encourage Creativity. Give your workers the opportunity to experiment and explore new ideas. Welcome fresh perspectives. Schedule discussion groups and require attendance of workers from different departments. By bringing people together, they get to share their approaches, processes, and concerns. And, by exchanging information and new ideas, your people will develop new ideas. This way, each department receives a fresh prospective from different departments and your organization becomes more integrated. Some companies reward creativity and ideas that increase productivity and profitability (but that could be the subject of another article).


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