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  • Writer's pictureNat Sharp

How to find time to innovate as a business owner

6 ways to make your small business more innovative

To celebrate World Creativity and Innovation day, we've partnered with small business innovation expert Jodie Newman, Founder of the Business Allotment and find out her practical tips to innovate in your business.

Creativity in business can sometimes seem like a frivolous pursuit. But being a creative business is not about installing slides between floors or making everyone sit on bean bags. Creativity is for any business that wants to create and sustain a competitive advantage, momentum, and productivity – not to mention better-engaged staff who contribute more to growing your business. So how do you create time to put ideas at the heart of what you do?

Start with you: get in creative shape

In the Business Allotment, we don’t hold with there being ‘ideas people’. With the right tools and some regular practise, everyone can be better at ideas. So first, set aside short amounts of creative thinking time in your schedule. Start with 10 minutes a day, which we can all find in our diaries if we look hard enough. Book this time out so you are not disturbed.

Always start your ideas time with a 1-minute creative workout – such as how many different uses you can think of for a paperclip, or doodle your name using different patterns, styles, or lettering. Creative workouts are fantastic to shift your brain into creative mode to help you get better ideas.

Identity a business challenge to work on and write it in an ideas notebook. Write it in the middle of the page and jot down ideas around it. As you run out of ideas, use a creative thinking tool to jump-start fresh thinking – such as picking your favourite brand and asking yourself how they would solve your challenge. You can work on a single challenge in your ideas time for a week or longer. With the right thinking tools, you will never run out of ideas. Imagine working on a challenge for 10 minutes a day for a week, creating 10 ideas at every sitting. By Friday, you will have 50 new business ideas.

Find your creative place

I can guarantee this will NOT be at your desk (our research proved this to be one of the worst places to come up with business ideas). Find a comfy armchair, or use a daily walk, bus ride, or trip to the gym to let your brain go wild with ideas – just make sure you have written down your challenge somewhere beforehand, as this helps 'brief' your brain on the challenge in hand.

Ideas on the go

Don’t just limit your creative thinking to your daily slot. Get into the habit of having your ideas notebook with you, or download a mind mapping app such as Miro, so that when you are waiting for a meeting to start, or are on the train platform, you can do a quick creative workout and get those ideas flowing.

Get the creative habit, then change it up

Whenever you feel creatively stale, that is the time for some random sparks – things that will create new thinking in your brain. This could be a box of Lego, a magazine or website you have never read before, or a different route into your office. With a curious, open, and creative mindset, random sparks will help your brain create new connections and fresh ideas.

Brew some new ideas

Get ideas brewing in the kitchen – put up a whiteboard or use Post Its – write a business challenge there and you and your team can contribute ideas whilst you are waiting for your tea to brew – it’s a perfect idle brain state for ideas to happen!

Then make the ideas work for your business

As you get into the creative habit, you will accrue loads of ideas. It is a good idea to capture these into an ‘ideas bank’ - something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet is all it takes and it will become an invaluable repository for ideas that are biding their time. For your business challenge, create a shortlist of ideas using an evaluation process – start with something simple like the traffic light system (red: not a viable idea, orange: has potential, green: strong ideas). Never dismiss the ideas that seem utterly ridiculous - these are often where the creative magic lies and can become the transformative ideas for your business. And don’t forget that new ideas are like baby birds - they are rarely ready to fly and will need to be nurtured before they can take flight and soar.

So start with 10 minutes a day and see where that idea takes you.

You can join the Tool Shed, the complimentary online membership area and download A Month of Creative Workouts e-book by signing up here or connect with Jodie on Linked In.

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