When we discuss innovation, we often discuss it in the context of companies such as Apple or Google. We crave with those feel-good stories of humble beginnings because they fill us with hope and inspire greatness. If the origins of Microsoft can be traced back to a young Bill Gates’ garage, the sky’s the limit for our own success, isn’t it?

Regardless, such stories can also serve as distractions. There is a finite amount of success out there when it comes to such corporations. Companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft only come around once in a lifetime in regard to their size, reach, and influence. Likewise, despite starting from the bottom, such companies also have comparatively infinite budgets which allow them to create more and more versus the average business owner. While Apple’s innovations in technology leading to something such as the iPad aren’t directly tied to their cash flow, having such massive resources on hand certainly helps.

So where’s the parity when it comes to innovation? How can we make breakthroughs when there’s little breathing room for our budgets?

Innovation is Not About Dollars and Cents

Much of our success is determined by our mentality. It’s easy for one to claim that innovation has little to do with money; however, the statement rings true from a certain perspective. There are millionaires out there, heirs to fortunes or those entrenched in tried and tested industries who’ve never truly innovated in their lives. Conversely, there are innovators out there who may never see a dime.

Innovation isn’t about spending or making money, per se. While big tech companies have the resources at hand to develop new breakthroughs, there are many degrees of innovation possible for any company despite their budget. Why’s that?

Innovation is About Ideas

We cannot innovate without ideas. Google Glass or the Windows operating system were not born from a bank account; they started as a seed in someone’s head and grew from there. From scribbled notes on a diner napkin to an off-comment during a business meeting, innovation is born from what’s inside of our heads. The means to produce and follow-up to see those innovations through is our responsibility. Just as we must ask the questions leading to new products and services, we must also take the steps to put those products in motion.

Innovation is Not a Competition

Furthermore, today’s cutthroat business environment combined with the notion of the corporate world as somewhat of a “game” has created a fierce sense of competition amongst today’s entrepreneurs. Whether or not you view yourself as the player of such a game, it’s clear to see that businesses live and die by ideas, both good and bad.

Yet innovation is not a competition. You cannot force innovation simply by peeking over the fence to see what the competitor next door is doing. While their progress or lack thereof may inspire or drive you, make sure you’re in the driver’s seat of your own business instead of worrying about someone else’s. As you cannot force innovation, it’s more prudent to make sure you’re establishing an environment of innovation rather than trying to thrust it upon your business, its principles and workers.

Innovation is Not One-Sizes-Fits-All

No two innovations are created equally. Just like we obsess over the tech giants, we also obsess over their sleek, sexy products. The iPod. The tablet. The smartphone. It’s easy to overlook innovations in terms of productivity, work environment or perspective. While society may focus on innovations that results in a bigger bottom line, there are plenty of innovations out there which may have benefits that do not directly create cash.

For example, something as simple switching an office to stand-up desks may do wonders to improve the energy and productivity of your workers. While such a move may not fill your bank account or may not seem as sexy as the next big gadget, it will ultimately make a difference to your business and its environment. Subtle or not, remember that innovation doesn’t always have to be something totally tangible.

Innovation is About You

From thinking to creating, we as small business owners are responsible for our innovations. Regardless of how we inspire innovation within our offices, businesses and everyday lives, the path toward innovation doesn’t always require deep pockets. Instead, take small steps of change leading toward something greater.

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