Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or are starting your very first business, it's hard to stand out from the competition.
Every aspect of your business needs to be unique and original, from the product to the user interface to the concept itself. Here are some techniques to drive innovation to your business by making creativity a fundamental component of your business strategy.
Find a vacuum
If you want to come up with an original and innovative business idea, don't copy what someone else is already doing. Racking your brain for new business ideas isn't going to inspire innovation, either. If you truly want to creatively solve a problem, find a vacuum--a niche that hasn't yet been filled.
The first step to begin a creative business approach is to think less about what your business should do, and more about which industry problems need to be solved. Make a list of current issues within the industry to determine whether there are certain business needs that aren't yet being met. Identifying these needs can help you come up with a business solution that creatively addresses these problems in way that hasn't already been done before.
Create a culture of sharing and collaboration
The most creative, original ideas often require risk-taking. People aren't likely to come up with original ideas if they stay inside their comfort zone. You should encourage employees to take risks and listen to their ideas, even if they're a little different from the usual. While you're always free to say "no," you shouldn't be overly critical of your employees' attempts at innovation or creativity.
If you don't show them that you'll listen with an open mind, they might stop proposing creative ideas for fear of being penalized.
One way managers can encourage employees to share their ideas is through shared company platforms. Companies can use messaging tools, such as HipChat or Zoho Cliq, to encourage the casual employee conversation that sometimes leads to the most creative business ideas.
Another great option is to build an internal company wiki or blog that's accessible only to employees. Such platforms act as open forums for employees to post and write about their business ideas and creative musings.
Think from the user's perspective
Your startup's success depends largely on your users' experiences with your product. The look and feel of your brand are deeply intertwined with your product's functionality. Rather than implementing UX as an afterthought, plan your UX strategy as you develop your product concept.
When you take the time to thoughtfully construct an experience that brings real value to your customers, you'll be able to brand yourself in a way that distinguishes your company as different and better from the ordinary. In addition to integrating UX efforts into your existing project tasks, you should have a team dedicated specifically to the user experience. You can hire a new in-house team, or you can opt for a product agency that specializes in user experience for startups.
While some product and UX agencies are better suited for large franchises, others cater specifically to startups and emerging tech companies. In that manner, I'm fond of Inkod, which goes by the philosophy that creative and original UX approaches are what make innovative technologies stand out.
The fact that there are UX options available for a wide range of businesses is a testament to the idea that regardless of a company's age or size, thinking about the user's perspective goes hand-in-hand with product innovation.
Experiment with new workplace practices
You can boost creativity among your employees and prevent creativity block by encouraging teams to break from their usual routine. This can involve anything from working in a new location to working with a different set of colleagues.
Even if you have a strong office culture, let your employees work from home a couple times a month if they feel that it will help creativity strike. Hold a retreat or event for your team or company, like a hike, that will inspire your team to brainstorm new ideas from a fresh perspective. Sometimes, it's just a matter of switching locations and breaking from the norm to get your employees' creative juices flowing.
As you make plans for these events, you should also encourage cross-pollination between teams. Hire a diverse group of employees, and be sure that team members come from a range of different backgrounds and departments.
Occasionally have projects where you assemble teams based on which people typically don't collaborate, and arrange your office's common spaces with seating areas that encourage people to chat, bounce ideas off each other, and sit and work together. The more combinations of interesting perspectives you can encourage, the fresher and more original those teams' ideas will be.
Creativity as culture
From the conception of your business idea to the way you carry out everyday business tasks, creativity should be deeply ingrained in your workplace culture. Address an unmet industry need and design your concept based on the perspectives of your target users. Embrace diversity and collaboration within your team, and occasionally break from the usual work routine with new workplace practices.
Make creative thinking a priority in your business strategy, rather than simply thinking of it as an added plus--it's crucial for inspiring innovation.