The world is a dynamic place, and the face of business has been rapidly changing. New technologies and increased internet and mobile access support innovation, as more and more people bring their ideas together.

However, innovation doesn’t just happen by bringing ideas together. New ideas and different ways of thinking are born as organizations break down conventional methods and procedures. Globalization is leading to all sorts of new opportunities, and organizations of all sizes are affected.

Your SME’s ability to quickly adapt to change could make or break the business, as consumer preferences and trends can shift rapidly. The ability to innovate, or implement new ideas or methodology, might keep you a step ahead of the competition or prevent you from falling a step behind.

Although the process of innovation is a complicated one, here are a few tips that could help spark some new ideas.

Don’t get caught standing still

Less than a decade ago, Blockbuster Video had a thriving business, and a business model that was very effective. Then, enter Netflix. Instead of paying attention to changing consumer trends and technological advances, Blockbuster continued with their business model of renting videos from large retail stores.

In just a few years, the entire business was decimated. Hundreds of storefronts closed, and when the company finally decided to expand their business to match the services of Netflix, it was far too late.

The message? Look at what your competitors are doing. Check out the newest technological trends, and pay attention to what people are saying. Paying close attention to social media channels is a great way to stay on top of trending consumer preferences, likes, and dislikes.

Even if you have a business model that is working well, don’t get complacent. Netflix was the bane of video stores, and Amazon was the bane of physical book stores. Don’t let a competitor catch you off-guard and make your business obsolete!

Listen to your employees’ ideas

By listen, I mean consider. Consider the thoughts and opinions of your employees, because it’s quite possible they have ideas you haven’t thought of yourself.

The organization may not necessarily use the ideas and suggestions of all employees, but the larger array of possibilities you know about, the better. It’s often the people on the front lines who have a better idea of how things can be improved or what customers really want.

In addition, by actively listening to your employees, you create an atmosphere of mutual respect where employees feel like valued members of the team. Everyone wants their ideas to be listened to and considered, and being able to participate in discussions about the company’s direction creates a sense of responsibility and ownership at all levels of the organization.

Not only can this lead to innovative ideas, but it is also a process that creates happier and more motivated employees.

Employ a diverse workforce

Also in the realm of listening to your employees is diversity. Sometimes diversity can be difficult for cohesive groups and teams to achieve. People who think alike and come from similar backgrounds tend to get along better, since they likely have similar ideals, values, and opinions.

However, the value of diversity stems from the aspects that make us different and our ability to utilize those differences. People that come from varying backgrounds tend to think differently, and thus may see different solutions or answers to the same problem. Having many unique perspectives can help a team generate a more complete picture, and think a little more outside-the-box.