Updated March 24 at 6:27pm

Innovate to stay ahead


Today’s business world is highly competitive and changing all the time. And for business owners, that means new ideas for adapting to change and beating the competition are essential to success.

But innovation isn’t easy, and most businesses – big or small – aren’t all that adept at consistently generating fresh new thinking. “Ideas are the lifeblood of business,” said Keith Harmeyer, co-author of a book on business innovation called SmartStorming. “So it’s important to eliminate any impediments to effective idea generation swiftly and handily.”

Here are reasons that small companies have trouble innovating, and how you can do better:

• The people running your brainstorming sessions are duds. Ideally, the person leading such meetings would be inspiring, supportive and open-minded. They’d encourage participation in a way that helps others share new and different types of ideas and perspectives.

But, alas, such is not always the case. Instead of inspiring and building up others, they come with dominating personalities that rule and control the group.

• Negativity and judgment hang in the air. One common refrain is, “We tried something like that and it didn’t work.” But things change, and this idea might just be different enough. Instead, the fledgling idea is simply massacred. Nothing kills a group’s efforts to brainstorm faster than negativity and judgment. If anyone’s contributions are quickly dismissed, they’ll think twice about offering others.

• It feels like a torture chamber. Brainstorming sessions that are poorly planned, loosely structured, have ill-defined goals and use no techniques to inspire new avenues of thinking can feel like torture. And the agony is only intensified by “leaders” who allow discussions to meander aimlessly or who fail to keep the energy level up.

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