Innovation. You’ve seen this word thrown around a lot lately. Headlines, articles, Facebook posts, blogs, memes… It’s a buzz word. Just like when the concepts of hyperlocal and Silicon Beach started to permeate the media, innovation is a hot topic that has everyone talking and a lot of us asking questions.
Just what is innovation? I can sit here and give you the Google definition:
In • no • va • tion
1. The action or process of innovating.
(Well that definition isn’t very helpful, is it? Now let’s Google: Cap•tain Ob•vi•ous…)
2. A new method, idea, product, etc.
But if I just did that, then we wouldn’t be here, would we? After all, you wouldn’t be coming to a blog post for a simple definition (if you did, you typed www.dictionary.com wrong). No, you’re coming for something a little more relevant, so let’s try that again. The question we are really asking isn’t “What is innovation?” Instead, the true question is “What is innovation for business?”
Over the last decades, innovation and creativity have become critical skills for achieving success in developed economies… While creativity is the ability to produce new and unique ideas, innovation is the implementation of that creativity—that’s the introduction of a new idea, solution, process, or product… The incorporation of looking at things from a different perspective. source
Did you know that in 2015, there were 530,000 new business owners each month? That every minute a new business is started in the United States? Or that Los Angeles County alone is the home to 430,948 businesses? With the startling rise of startups and entrepreneurship, the business economy has changed, saturating the market in a way that we haven’t seen before. A business can be started almost as simply as flipping a switch. Have an idea? Simply head on over to GoDaddy to make sure your domain name hasn’t been taken, throw a quick WordPress site together, make your business Instagram page, buy a few Facebook advertisements, and bam. You’re in business. Not only is the ease of starting a business seemingly taken for granted in today’s society, but it can also happen for remarkably little down. And, if you find yourself a little short of funds, funding opportunities are no longer limited to bank loans and your own personal savings account (see: crowdfunding), expanding potential even further. Need some customers? Don’t fret, online communities like Meetup and Facebook help you find your specific market, no matter if you’re looking for student hikers who also like to do origami on the weekends and own two cats in a 5 mile radius.
So, what does all of that mean for you? It means you have competition.
Yes, professional competition has been around since the beginning, and a competitive business market is arguably one of the best things for a thriving economy, but never before has there been just so much of it.
Let’s say I wanted to start my own freelance graphic design company. A quick Google search for “Freelance Graphic Designer” gets me 739,000 results (in .69 seconds). Let’s try “Freelance Graphic Designer Los Angeles.” 597,000 results. Okay, “Cheap Freelance Graphic Designer Los Angeles.” 686,000 results. Hmmm, what about “BEST Freelance Graphic Designer Los Angeles.” 733,000 RESULTS. Even if only one-quarter of those results are legitimate designers-for-hire, that still leaves you with 183,250 competitors in your immediate area, not to mention the fact that you’re already competing with websites like Fiverr and Gigbucks (and all of the men and women who will tell you, “Oh, I could do that!”). You are one in 183 thousand, how can you stand out?
You think outside the box. You think of new solutions to old problems. You find (effective) shortcuts to long journeys. You market in unexpected ways. You ask the questions that everyone else forgot to ask. You implement former ideas in inventive ways. You mix unsuccessful plans together to create something new. You exceed expectations. You succeed. You are a success.
It is important to remember that, “the company that builds a culture of innovation is on the path to growth.” You might be a company of 1 or 100, as long as you start the innovation process and work toward instilling innovation as a habit rather than an occasion, your potential will raise exponentially.
Innovation is also a community-building tool. “The innovation leader, while perhaps not a creative genius, is effective at evoking the skills of others needed to build an innovation culture. Collaboration is essential.” What better way to encourage production and instill loyalty than by making sure everyone is involved in the innovation process? An employee that is personally invested in the outcome will perform better and stay around longer, becoming an advocate for your business because they have worked hard for it. They had a say in what happened, they were heard, and after everyone worked together to make it succeed, they are proud of it. They say that “If you build it, he will come,” but I say that if you build it, you will stick around to build more. Plus, innovation is easier to obtain when you have help. One person can only think outside the box so many times, but if you put a team together… Your odds go up.
Now, you might be asking yourself if innovation automatically leads to success. The answer is, unfortunately, no. But don’t let that discourage you. Just like the business community has been changing drastically over the decades, so has technology, and with the rise of technology comes the rise of available options.
Technology is transforming innovation at its core, allowing companies to test new ideas at speeds and prices that were unimaginable even a decade ago. They can stick features on Web sites and tell within hours how customers respond. They can see results from in-store promotions, or efforts to boost process productivity, almost as quickly. source
So, while your next innovative idea might not be an immediate success, it also won’t be a huge disaster. Try a new logo on your Facebook page and gauge reactions. Send out a revised collateral piece in a targeted email blast and see if someone marks you as spam. Do an in-store survey and see how customers respond. Try something. Be daring. Have an experience. And if the reactions aren’t what you’re looking for? Try something else. With a multitude of platforms to communicate with your audience, you can even try different things at once. Work on a new campaign via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Meetup, Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, Eventbrite, Yelp, Swarm, Google Ads, Groupon… Must we go on? Always make sure to “try new things, because the price of failure is so much lower.”
To make a long story short (tl;dr), in today’s world, innovation is queen. And when used properly can elevate your business to new heights. And really, as a Chamber of Commerce, constantly advocating for the betterment of business and a thriving economy, isn’t that exactly what we need?
Speaking of innovation, it is with great pride and pleasure to announce that the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce placed 3rd out of all of the chambers in North America in the 2016 Chamber Innovation Award Competition. We are so honored that out of all of the applicants, we were chosen for our innovative idea: LAX Coworking. Always aiming to promote a stronger business climate, LAX Coworking allows us to offer the necessary support to our local small business, startup, freelance, and entrepreneur economy, and we are so excited to be recognized. Keep an eye out for the 2016 Edition of Chambers of Inspiration e-book, which will highlight the top 5 entries of this competition, this Fall.
The LAX Coworking program would not be possible without the enthusiasm of those involved and the generosity of our sponsors. A special thank you to all of our past, present, and future LAX Coworkers, and of course, our proud sponsors.