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Innovation (or it’s close-cousin, creativity) is a key concern of businesses in the SME world, with the BIS (SMEs: Key Enablers) finding that those who invest in this area have significantly higher growth rates than those who don’t.

Yet many report that they are unable to fulfil their potential due to internal blockers. Here we examine how you can go about releasing some of these barriers with your internal team:

Change the scenery

I find I have some of my best ideas when I’m on holiday – and I doubt that I’m that unusual in this respect. Because at this point, my brain is roaming freely. Unhampered by lists with items such as  ‘Kids mufti day on Tuesday’, ‘Pay VAT’ and ‘Order no.2’s passport’…

But assuming you’re not making the latest Guinness advert, sending everyone off to a desert island to let their creative juices flow is probably not on the budget list. So instead, change the scenery and check out Hirespace to find somewhere unusual and cost-effective that will help everyone see things from a different perspective. Because if you are going to spend some time reflecting on how you could do things better, take time out in a place where people don’t normally work. 

Offer encouragement

People are more likely to come up with ideas if they think they will be welcomed. I’ve avoided using brainstorming sessions in this list as I’ve never found them that useful myself, but the principle of having ‘no-judgement’ on any ideas offered is a good one. So encourage others by thanking them for their suggestions, maybe asking them to work it through a bit more and giving them praise for doing so.

But don’t try and incentivise them with the reddies

Whilst I am sure that if you told people you’d give them a tenner for every idea they came up with, the list may be long (and of questionable quality), research has proved that for complex cognitive tasks, incentives can actually drive worse performance on these kind of tasks. So ditch the cold hard cash on this one and instead reward people with a memorable experience for their contribution instead.

Mix your team up a bit

Diversity encourages creativity and innovation and discourages group thinking (the type you get when all the people in the room have similar backgrounds, schemas etc). So the case for inclusion in terms of the people you actually include in your team to drive ideas is strong. This can be difficult to change overnight (for more information on how to actually go about this in your business, take some tips from the blog post, The Unusual Suspects: How To Do Diversity In An SME) but how about including your customers in the process if they are willing and able? As prime beneficiaries of any new product or service, I am sure many would be keen to be able to input if it had benefit to them. Plus you get to build up a better relationship with them in the process.

For more great tips on how to grow your own skills as an SME leader, in our FREE eBook : Leadership 101: Your Ultimate Step by Step Guide To Being An Inspirational Leader

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