They say entrepreneurship is all about “innovation,” but…
if you’ve been running your own small business for a while, it’s not unusual to feel stuck in a rut.
Let’s face it, burnout and fatigue are constant threats in this line of work, and it is all too easy to lose that “innovation” spark that once drove you. The good news is that just like any other skill, innovation can be learned.
It may take a bit of practice, but you can strengthen your mindset or regain the creative juices that you feel are a bit lacking as of late.
1. Go Out Of Your Way To Challenge Conventional Wisdom
Greatness often comes from voluntarily going against what’s widely considered the status quo in your industry. Take a step back and look at the standard practices and conventional wisdom for your niche.
While it’s true that conventional wisdom usually gets its status for good reason, all too often, that “conventional wisdom” may be stuck in the perception of what the market looked like 20 or 30 years ago.
Times change. Technology moves forward, and customer expectations can shift dramatically. This can easily result in a situation where the conventional wisdom that worked so well in the past is no longer going to provide the kind of results you need.
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So, push back.
Look for deficiencies in the status quo (especially in what’s being done by your industry’s “name brands”), and create something that goes against them. Yes, there’s a good chance you’ll fail by going against your industry’s accepted best practices, but the victories that you do achieve are what will lead to widespread innovation.
2. Embrace Feeling Uncomfortable (In Fact, Seek Out The Feeling)
It seems a desire to conform is ingrained in us at an early age. Think back to your school days, when you wanted to blend in to make more friends and avoid getting bullied. The problem is that this desire to conform and avoid uncomfortable situations can then keep us from trying to innovate later in life.
Successful, innovative entrepreneurs understand that they have to embrace discomfort by questioning everything and learning new things. Most importantly, you need to do things differently than you’ve done before. While these actions can be uncomfortable or challenging, they are what ultimately leads to the personal growth that sparks innovation.
A great example of this came from a recent conversation with Ben Kovalis, cofounder of Art AI, a unique startup that creates art exclusively with computer technology.
He explained, “One of the first things we realized upon entering the startup world was that if we didn’t look for the most exciting and unique ideas, someone else would outrun us. That meant we had to constantly challenge ourselves to make our idea and product better. This sometimes requires asking hard questions of our business — whether we’re really on the right path. Questioning what we’ve done in the past requires a major shift in mindset. But it’s also what helped us attract clients and investors.”
As his comments reveal, doing an internal evaluation of your own business practices can definitely be uncomfortable. But this also forces you to stretch your thinking by directly confronting your weaknesses and identifying the opportunities that could come from innovative change.
Seeking discomfort could actually make you more comfortable with innovation.
3. Listen To What ‘Newbies’ Have To Say; Take Them Seriously
I don’t consider myself an old fart by any means, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been in my line of work for quite a few years now. There’s a good chance that a lot of you reading this article have been in your current role in your business for five years, ten years or even more.
While this longevity in business is definitely a strength in and of itself, this can also sometimes close us off to new ideas. Our own experiences can cause us to self-impose limits on what we think is possible or profitable for our niche.
You know who doesn’t have this same perception of limits, though? Industry newbies. The kids arriving starry eyed out of college, looking for a new job where they can make an impact on the world.
When newbies arrive on the scene, they also bring new ways of problem-solving with them. They might not know everything, but this can actually be a major strength. Their thinking won’t be constrained by the limits that industry veterans sometimes unconsciously impose on themselves.
Sure, not every idea they pitch is going to be a winner. But take their ideas seriously and treat them with respect, and you’ll learn from them. An off-the-wall suggestion could be just what is needed to trigger your next great idea.
Let’s Inovate Innovating!
Like any other skill, becoming a more innovative entrepreneur requires consistent, concerted effort. But when you actively open yourself up to new ideas and perspectives, rather than stick with the “safe” tried-and-true standards for your industry, you’ll be amazed at what you might discover.
After all, who ever jumpstarted their career by playing it safe?
By embracing innovation and making bold moves with your business, you will be on pace to reshape your industry.