Keeping your Business Innovative

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Innovation is the lifeblood of any tech start-up in Scotland (or anywhere else in the world for that matter) and many people find their first innovation their most exciting.  In many ways, that’s understandable, but to have a long and successful business, it’s important to maintain innovation as part of your mindset and stick with it even when times get tough.

In this article, we’ll look at 10 things you can do to keep your business innovative.

Breed a culture of innovation

There’s no point in being a tech innovator and encouraging your key people to stay inside their box!  It’s often the most junior people or the people closest to the customers who come up with the bones of a really great and innovative idea.  If there’s no system in place for these people to make their voices heard, you could be missing a trick.  Make sure that everyone knows that you’re willing to listen to their ideas, no matter how junior or senior they are.

Make innovation a KPI

If you have employed people to innovate, make sure you motivate them to do so.  You’ll find a great article about how to keep your staff motivated to innovate here, but one key is doing all you can to breed a culture of innovation and rewarding the people paid to innovate when they come up with the goods.


Travel is a great way to open up your mind to new and innovative ideas.  Ask any innovator when they came up with their finest ideas and they’ll rarely tell you it was while sitting at a desk!  Make it a priority to get out and about and look at the world with fresh eyes.  Seeing how other cultures and other nations as well as other towns and cities deal with problems or solve pains can be a real eye-opener and with an open mind and open eyes, you’re much more likely to stay innovative.

Be curious

Quite often bizarre situations give rise to an idea.  No matter whether it’s a magazine in a doctor’s waiting room, a parent at the school gates or an off the wall blog post that you stumble over, being curious can lead to the development of great ideas.  Make sure you live your life in an open-minded way and go around with your eyes peeled for opportunities to solve problems and soothe pains and you’ll stay firmly on top of the innovation challenge.

Buy from your competitors

You might think you know your competitors, but in many instances, you won’t really get to know them until you buy from them.  Buy from them anonymously if possible (using a willing friend or family-member’s personal details) and create a bit of a stir.  See how they deal with things and keep an open mind as to how they could have been dealt with better or differently.  Once you receive their product or service, take it to pieces and put it back together again.  Ask yourself if you were making that product or service, how would you do it?  This simple process can stimulate a whole load of ideas that you can’t even imagine right now.

Think outside the box

Innovators by their very nature think outside the box.  But sometimes when their first innovation gets to market, they take a back seat.  This can be innovation suicide.  Thinking “once an innovator always an innovator” will help you to retain your capacity to think outside the box.

Break the rules  

Breaking the rules is part of your nature as an innovator, but running a start-up can sometimes leave you feeling forced to conform.  Don’t let this happen.  By all means live by the rules of business to give your start-up every chance of success, but don’t let the rebel in you go to sleep.

Stay close to your customers

If you listen carefully to your customers, they’ll give you all the information you need to innovate effectively.  Ask them what they want; find out what keeps them awake at night; then share your ideas with them.  Working this way means your innovations will shortcut to market faster than if you develop them in a darkened room.

Keep your eye on the ‘now’ ball

Even though you need to stay innovative to keep ahead of the game, when you’re running your own business, you need to keep your eye firmly on what’s happening right now as well as what might happen in the future.  Don’t be tempted to let your innovation distract you and if it is, it could be time to consider getting extra hands on deck.

Stay fit and get enough sleep

Tiredness and lethargy are innovation’s worst enemies.  If you want to be innovative, you need to be firing on all cylinders, pretty much all the time.  At a very basic level, make sure you get out and about and move your body on a regular basis; make sure you get enough sleep and try to stick to a healthy diet that’s light on alcohol and caffeine.

About the Author

Ross McLennanWant to chat? Ross is one of the Commercialisation Advisers for ICS Ltd and is passionate about  helping entrepreneurs try and turn their good ideas into great companies. Contact Ross here or you can also connect with Ross on LinkedIn and Twitter.

If you’re interested in finding out more, or discussing the benefits of incubation to your Scottish tech innovation, why not why not REGISTER TODAY FOR A FREE CONSULTATION by emailing  We have a team of Commercialisation Advisers ready and waiting to help you make sure your tech start-up gets all the incubation support it deserves.

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