It may seem a strange question to ask if SMEs can be innovative. Frequently it is some entrepreneurial or innovative spirit that gets the business started. So of course, they can be innovative. But are they? Often, once the business gets up and running the Business Owners find themselves getting pulled more and more into dealing with operational issues, and less time doing the things that made the business grow in the first place.
The SME is fundamentally different to big companies. Big companies have the resources to establish incubators and/or research and development functions. They can dedicate significant time and resources to creating new innovations. It is interesting however how few large organisations manage to be successful with their innovation. But that’s another story.
At the other extreme, for somebody who’s not yet set up their business they can put all their concentration into their idea or innovation. They are not interrupted by the daily operational concerns of running the business. They, however, may lack the money, equipment and reach into the marketplace that allows them to develop and test their innovations.
For the SMEs however there is a fantastic opportunity. With an effective understanding of the process of innovation, and with the right mindset, SMEs are perfectly set to be the most innovative organisations in the world: they have access to real world customers and real-world needs, which is usually the main source of inspiration for innovation. This gives them an advantage over those who have not yet started their business. And, in an SME, the senior decision makers are still close enough to the front-line to spot and act on opportunities as they see them. This is something large organisations struggle with.
So, for SMEs to be innovative, what it takes is for the Business Owners and Leaders to take a bit of time to understand the innovation process and build it into their business’s DNA from early on. Is make the decision of whether to learn this process or not.