Everywhere you look, you see the word "innovation" popping up in articles, business books and from experts saying you need to “Innovate or Die!” But what does this really mean for your business? How can you innovate when you're already busy managing your growth, looking for financing or simply trying to stay afloat? In this article, we're going to give you some concrete, actionable ideas on how to apply "innovation" within your company to make you more successful. Why Does Innovation Matter The word innovation comes from the Latin word "innovatus," which means "to renew or change." However, change for the sake of change is pointless. This is perfectly summarized by a quote from Narayana Murthy, past Chairman of Infosys: "Differentiation (or innovation) without better net income margins is meaningless." While the end goal for innovation should be to grow the bottom line, other important benefits that accrue with innovation include protecting your market share, attracting better clients and ensuring the future relevance of your company in a fast-changing world. Now let's focus on a few ways to implement innovation from an internal perspective. Product: Innovative products are what most people think of when they hear the word innovation (think iPad 2 or Terrafugia's Flying Car). However, let's assume you don't have millions of dollars of capital behind you but still want to innovate your product or service. The easiest way to do this is to talk to your best customers, find out their main constraints or problems, then determine how to innovate your product/service to solve their problem. Do the hard work, speak with your clients and innovate! Finally, don't forget to investigate whether or not you qualify for SR&ED credits relating to your product/process innovation. Processes: Look at your internal processes (i.e. costing/collection/manufacturing) and find incremental innovations that may save you money, speed things up or improve the customer experience. The Japanese have a philosophy of Kaizen or "change for the better" where employees from all levels of the company are involved in making continuous, small improvements to the processes they're responsible for. This then compounds into significant improvements on a company-wide scale. A good example of this is Toyota (even with their recent vehicle woes). There are many ways you can innovate internally to the benefit of your small business, and there is equally great opportunity to innovate in relation to external factors. Be sure to check back for my next blog post, which will take a look at external opportunities for innovation.