When should your business start searching for innovation?

Kate Jones

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos says he believes there is no bad time to innovate. Companies should be innovating through the good years and especially the bad years, according to Bezos.

It’s a philosophy that has helped Amazon reach one success after another and set up Bezos as a billionaire. But where do companies start searching for innovation? And how do they know when they’ve spotted it?

The key is to know how much your company is prepared to lose in the pursuit of innovation, says Brian Ruddle, managing director of Impact Innovation Group.

“How much time am I prepared to find out information about this idea?” Ruddle says.

“How much time am I willing to lose to see whether it’s feasible for not? And how much am I prepared to spend?”

Finding new and exciting ways of doing things is what sets businesses apart from their competition. Ruddle, who specialises in technology scouting and commercialisation, says many small business owners think they are too time-poor and cash-strapped to innovate. But half the battle is won by having the right attitude.

“Time constraints is the major reasons SMEs cite for not being innovative, but there are some very innovative small and micro businesses out there,” she says.

If you have something even slightly different to attract customers, your company has differentiated itself from the rest.

“It can definitely be done, and it starts with having the right mindset.”

Ruddle says small businesses that prioritise innovation have the jump on their competitors and stand out to customers.

“It’s all about competitiveness and differentiation,” he says.

“If you have something even slightly different to attract customers, your company has differentiated itself from the rest.”

More chief executives are taking responsibility for leading the way in innovation, according to 2103 PWC report Unleashing the Power of Innovation. Of 246 global chief executives surveyed, 64 per cent said innovation and operational effectiveness were equally important to the success of their company. This compares with just 51 per cent who said innovation was a priority in 2009.

Innovation is increasingly important in Australia’s business culture, where 42 per cent of companies recorded innovative activity in 2012-13. Australian Bureau of Statistics data show this figure has risen since 2010-11, when 39 per cent were involved in producing new or improved goods or services.

Kate Jones

Kate Jones writes for the business and money sections of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. She also writes for The New Daily, TAC, RMIT and is a news writing tutor at Monash University.

Image: PopTech, Flickr Creative Commons license