What are some examples of where you’ve seen innovation really take a business to the next level?
Well, I’m often attending a lot of forums and events around innovation and get inspired by different speakers who give these fabulous examples as a great product that was known in the 80s more for sort of a Pyrex style Tupperware that you actually could put in the oven. And so, this was a really extraordinary product because it could handle heat, et cetera. So, all these housewives knew about it, but actually they just kept adapting their business, and so much so that they’re now famous for being glass providers in major surgical rooms all over the world. Right now, you can interact with surgery using this glass and the technology that they’ve put into it.
So, they’ve taken a product where they were actually targeting housewives in the kitchen and they’ve actually modified themselves to be one of the top medical products in the world. I think we need to keep looking at other examples and reinventing our businesses and thinking about, what do we do well and how might we change it to the future where we actually might have a different customer, but we can still use that product or service and we do it really well but it’s going to be used differently into the future.
Lots of good ideas there and a few little apps and tips and work practises that maybe everybody could be using anyway. Innovation can sometimes be a little bit scary if you’re used to doing things the same old way and you’ve got people that have been around for years and they’re setting their ways to use that phrase. Do we have to completely overhaul that and change the way we’re working or there may be some smaller incremental changes we can make on the way through?
Absolutely. I think that, people think that innovation has to be something big and technology driven, it needs to be really disruptive. For me, innovation is just continuously improving and trying to do things faster. So that doesn’t need to be anything ground-breaking, it just actually could be de-hassling someone or helping get the best out of that person’s skills. So, definitely take the fear away from innovation, have a go, keep the conversation alive with your team.
One of our values at Struber is Digivation and that’s all about, we couldn’t really agree between digital and innovation because we’re a bit more of an online company. But we were really wanted to focus on having the team being recognised and rewarded regularly around bringing innovation and getting involved in that, they’re my favourite people in the business. They’re my rock stars, the people who aren’t afraid to make that change, but that’s because I lead a culture where we aren’t afraid to make changes.
Julie, I think one of the concerns lots of small business owners have is that innovation by definition is experimentation and trying new things, and that’s always a risk and it’s probably a cost as well. How do we manage that? How do we make sure we don’t get consumed by that risk or consumed by that cost?
When I talk to other SMEs I sort of say to them, we were crazy enough to get into business in the first place weren’t we? So that’s a risk and a cost in itself, and so why not be motivated by trying to reduce those risks and costs by trying new things. And I agree there is that risk and there is that fear of failure. But one of the things we actually set up at work, and I’m going to be fully honest, it was a failure in itself. We set up a failure wall, so people could actually say, I tried this thing, but we were trying to foster such a culture where is if we’re not failing very often, we’re not getting any better.
People kind of didn’t always want to admit to the boss that they were failing, and they were perfect. But I think you have to really own that, talk about it often with your team, make sure everyone understands what you’re trying to undertake so that they can participate in it. So, if you’re trying a new software, make sure everyone understands what the purpose is, what its taking away, what’s now no longer going to be part of their job. And then this thing is integral, so you start to get that uptake because otherwise you’re starting to invest in a new tool and it’s actually not de-hassling or giving back any more time from another part of your business.
I think, try to set everything up around structure and systems to make sure your innovation doesn’t fail, but if it does, accept that that’s just part of the journey of life and that’s part of the crazy journey of having a small business.