Recently, an SME entrepreneur asked me for the best practices to innovate and create a sustainable innovation culture in his company. Quite an interesting question, but not an easy one to answer. Let’s assume that there would exist a manual to innovation, than after all innovations would not be innovative anymore.
Innovation management is no exact science with rules, laws and big theories that can predict Return on Investments in advance. Even less is it a religion wherein best practices and organizational behavior should simply be copied on the way to success. Of course, best practices in other organization can inspire you to create an innovation culture, but simply copying most of the times makes no sense.
The most successful innovations often result from smart copying and that is also the case in the field of innovation management within SME’s. Smart copying includes a good vision on success drivers within similar organizations and a tailored translation of these insights towards your own company. In some organizations creativity is successfully stimulated through a yearly idea-wall, others have good results with giving an idea pocketbook to every employee, while other companies integrate ‘new ideas’ in the agenda of every meeting… Some organizations have an innovation champion to structure the innovation process while others work with ad hoc innovation teams. Whether a specific approach works nice in one company and fails in another? Many books are written on this topic, with even more success stories and theories that explain them. As you probably know: ‘wisdom post-factum’ is an exact science.
In practice, innovation management within SME’s is often a matter of courage to try, experimenting (piloting), determination to succeed and adjusting its strategy based on lessons learned. To look over the hedge at the neighbors is not prohibited, on the contrary, but only with the ambition to do better…
Kurt Peys is Innovation Management Challenger within the Innovation Centre Antwerp. He supports SME entrepreneurs and managers on their way to successful innovations.