Do you own, run or work in a small or medium business? Well, here’s a piece of good news for you. When it comes to Innovation, you actually have a distinct and unique advantage. The concept of ‘innovation’ can seem intimidating and possibly irrelevant as an SME, however, what’s important to remember is that innovation isn’t necessarily about coming up with the next million-dollar idea or achieving global domination. Likewise, it’s not necessarily about radically upheaving your business, investing lots of money or having a glitzy R&D department…It’s about learning, resourcefulness, opportunity, change and development in order to drive growth- all things that most SMEs have in bucket-loads.
Now, be honest, have you ever thought…
… ‘We’re too small to innovate…’
… ‘How can I compete with the vast budgets of a large organisation?’
… ‘I don’t have the resources to put towards an innovation strategy.’
Thoughts like these are very common and have hindered many businesses, but the truth is that no business is ever ‘too small to innovate’. You may not have a large R&D budget or extensive human resources to throw at an innovation strategy but what you do have is a nimble and agile business model in which ideas can quickly come to life, much more so than in larger organisations, who often have to battle through different pitching and approval processes before an idea can even get off the ground.
You also don’t need to be producing full-scale, detailed, shiny prototypes which are expensive and timely. Start off with simple, cheap materials - whatever you can lay your hands on! Low-fidelity prototyping is a great (and often over-looked) way to start envisioning ideas and identify any potential flaws or opportunities with a product or service.
This may come as a surprise but innovation flourishes in a constrained environment because it encourages creativity and ingenuity, challenging people to work around the resources available and therefore think beyond the obvious. Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon believes 'frugality drives innovation’, describing how ‘one of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.' Limitless finance or resources can be detrimental to innovation strategy because it often results in too many options, and too many options isn’t necessarily always a good thing - in much the same way going to the supermarket when you’re hungry is dangerous!
As an SME, you also have a significant benefit in that you will naturally be more closely acquainted with your customer base and market. In terms of innovation, this allows you quicker and easier access to understanding customer problems, giving you a distinct advantage in being able to address them. Solution-focused innovation such as this can be surprisingly disruptive and will help you to achieve significant USPs that larger organisations may not have.
Many larger organisations envy SMEs, often aspiring to their agile, nimble, solution-focused models. So don't let the label ‘SME’ hinder you and your innovation potential, identify and play to your unique strengths, and see what you can do to shake up the giants of the business world.