Question: In your opinion, what makes a startup or small business truly "innovative" and why?
It Achieves the Impossible
"When other startups or small businesses think they've come "close enough" to something they think can't be done, that's not innovation. It's when doubt turns to success that something becomes truly innovative. Taking impossibility out of the equation means you are solving a long-standing problem, which will get your target audience truly excited."
It Creates New Business Models
"Innovation should be disruptive. It should take the old way of doing business and turn it on its head, forcing businesses to be nimble and creative in finding ways to reach customers. Think of a standard supply chain. Now imagine one that can deliver your product to the most remote locations where FedEx or UPS don't deliver. It can't be done with business as usual. That's innovation."
It's Willing to Cannibalize Itself
"Many startups reinvent an existing product to market to changes in the way we consume, purchase or behave. But what makes lasting companies innovative is a willingness to disrupt themselves. Amazon is a great example with the Kindle disrupting its own sales of hard-copy books -- so is Netflix pushing streaming to replace its DVD rental business. "
It Develops a Sustainable Competitive Advantage
"A startup that creates a sustainable competitive advantage is truly innovative in every sense of the word. Launching a business that provides value in the present is tough enough, but the ability to carve out a niche in the future shows true innovation. Between the inherent resource constraints and inevitable competition from established businesses, this task is exceedingly difficult. "
It Turns Weakness Into Strength
"Almost every business analyzes its strong suits, but a truly innovative startup goes a step farther. These are the companies that clearly identify their weaknesses and then find ways to turn them into strengths. This shows that the people behind the company are dedicated to the self-improvement and self-awareness that a startup needs to grow and thrive. "
It Addresses a Pain Point
"Innovative startups listen to their users and clients and learn what their pain points are. This way, they're in a good position to develop solutions for those pain points -- and that's the kind of innovation that matters."
It Moves Ahead of the Curve
"A company "innovates" when it moves ahead of its industry -- before other companies hit the curve. Whether you're solving a complicated technical issue or making a breakthrough in life science, find room to innovate so you're not just a carbon copy of other businesses. "
It's Adaptable to a Rapidly Changing Market
"Innovation is happening more rapidly than ever before. In order to be innovative, companies need to be adaptable. They need to move quickly, adjust plans and evolve with market and customer demands. To do so successfully, startups also need to stay in line with their broader mission."
Its Structure and Budget Defies the Odds
"Small businesses are more innovative because of their company structure. The small structure allows for quick decision-making without the hassle of going through layers of approval, which can slow down company processes. Small businesses also have to be more creative than their larger counterparts due to a much smaller budget. This forces out-of-the-box thinking and innovation."
Instead of Trying New Ideas, It Perfects Old Ones
"Everyone's trying to find the best "new idea." Sadly, there aren't many new ideas left. What we could stand to see more of, however, is someone taking old ideas and making them new again. Our friends at Candylabtoys.com, for instance, build beautiful wooden cars in a style not seen since the 60's. They've taken an old idea and made it relevant again -- with absolutely fantastic results."
People Would Miss the Company if It Were Gone
"The equation for measuring the impact of a startup is roughly equivalent to the number of people who would be legitimately angry if your service disappeared tomorrow. Companies who consistently focus on building this user base of people who love and need your service end up making large, truly innovative companies."
It Has a Vibrant Company Culture
"What can truly make a company innovative are the people and the culture -- in other words, what the company stands for. Create an innovative culture and allow your people to take risks. Yes, sometimes they will fall, but if the risk is previously calculated, it's something that must be not only accepted but also celebrated as a lesson and opportunity to learn. The possible benefits are so much greater."