Take Your Business to the Next Level

Sticking with the status quo can prove fatal for your business. Here are five tips to turn stagnation into innovation.

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Is your business stuck in a rut? These days, doing what you’ve always done won’t cut it anymore. Just look at former movie rental giant Blockbuster. All the brand familiarity and market dominance in the world couldn’t save the company when it lagged behind competitors more responsive to critical changes in the market.

In an article on Small Business Computing, Pedro Hernandez discusses five steps small business leaders can take to ensure that their strategies evolve and their businesses grow with the times.

Step One: Cultivate Creativity

Businesses that don’t innovate run the risk of falling behind. Again, look at Blockbuster.

To avoid a similar fate, cultivate a creative organization. Start with the raw material: employees from diverse backgrounds, with diverse perspectives to bring to the table. Encourage them to stay current both on what matters to your customers and what’s going on in the world beyond, and keep them challenged with projects aimed at turning what they learn into fresh new ideas.

Step Two: Optimize Collaboration

We all know that teamwork matters. Are you making the most of your teams?

At its best, teamwork means much more than just putting a group of people together to divvy up tasks and report back to some leader. A well-assembled team is much more than the sum of its individual members: more agile, more creative, more efficient, and more productive.

How well do individual team members’ strengths and weaknesses mesh? Do the strengths of some help compensate for the weaknesses of others, and do all members have something different to contribute? If you’ve got groups of people too similar to each other, consider moving some around to better utilize them.

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Step Three: Take Some Risks

Now that you’ve taken the necessary steps to stimulate creativity and drive innovation within your business, start putting some new ideas to the test. In business as in life, getting out of the comfort zone is critical to growth, so don’t let objections like “But this isn’t how we do things” or “No one else does it this way” stop you. Do your diligence, know what your acceptable level of loss is should the idea fail, and then go for it.

Step Four: Accept Failure

Unless you’re in possession of a magic lamp or a contract with some unsavory supernatural character, not everything you do will succeed. Don’t expect that, and don’t expect that from your teams, either. If they’re afraid to fail, they’ll never want to take risks. If you and your employees treat failures as learning experiences, however, your business will ultimately not just survive, but thrive.

Every one of us has failed at something. What separates those who end up succeeding from those who don’t is, in large part, the ability to learn and keep going after a misstep. Evaluate your failures to identify what worked and what didn’t. Fix what you can and continue to apply those lessons to the next initiative.

The above four tips may significantly change the way you do business, so as you work towards a more agile, proactive business strategy, remember this vital fifth step:

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Step Five: Prioritize for Success

Time is precious, and once it’s gone, you can’t turn back the clock and get it back (yet). Keep this in mind, and don’t squander the time you have. Identify your most critical projects, the ones on whose results your success truly hinges. Now make those projects your priority. Scale back on the time that you allow non-priority issues to take from them. Saying “yes” to everything can be tempting, but in the long run, the time you spend on nonessential tasks delays progress on the things that really matter.

The world we work in is changing faster than many businesses’ strategies. Make sure your company doesn’t fall behind by focusing your efforts on getting ahead—and staying there.

Jude Chao is executive editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Follow Jude on Twitter.

Adapted from How to Upgrade Your Business by Pedro Hernandez at Small Business Computing. Follow Small Business Computing on Twitter.