15 Clever Ways for Startup Founders to Innovate


Get your make on.

1. Make time. It’s a worthy investment. Google gives its employees ‘20 per cent time’ (where they can use 20 per cent of their working week on their own special projects) for a reason – to innovate.

2. Try different ways. You’ve always done it this way. It’s tradition. It’s logical. It’s how everybody has always done it before you, and how they are still doing it. Right? Flip it on its head and look for a better alternative. Thomas Edison reminds us: “There’s a way to do it better – find it”. No idea is a stupid idea.

3. Expect resistance. If you want to please everyone all the time, then the game of creating change probably isn’t for you. Not everyone will love your idea. Angelo Sotira, the co-founder of online art community DeviantART says, “Every time we launch a feature, people yell at us”.

4. Identify insights. Innovative ideas are only great when they stem from identifying key insights – those little, often overlooked human truths that strike a chord and get people emotionally invested in a concept. Spend less time generating ideas and more time looking for insights to address.

5. It’s a team sport. Innovation rarely happens as a solo pursuit. Gather a team with a mixed skill set who will challenge you and you them. Let the idea bouncing begin.

6. Debate. A little healthy in-house banter is a good thing. There will be worse critics of your idea than yourself, or your team (surely). So take some time to battle against your own idea. Take the offensive, see what holes they say exist and fix them before a real, living, breathing customer finds them for you.

7. Diverge and converge. Go away and come back. Separate to gather insight and come back together to discuss solutions. Be part of the discovery process.

8. Test early. When you think you’ve nailed it, put your ideas in front of the right people early. Don’t waste time, resources and money on something that may never have lift off. Send out a quick test and see if it fails or flies and gather all the feedback you can along the way.

9. Celebrate failure. If you build an innovation culture where failure is okay, or even expected, then people have permission to think crazily, wild and outside of the square and that’s when the best ideas come. You tend to learn more from your failures than from the ideas that fly.

10. Constrain yourself. Say what? Create some boundaries for you an your team to work within. Not so many that you feel hemmed in and stifled, but enough to spark ideas and give you something to work from and start with.

11. Drop the labels. In the innovation game, forget job titles. Let you and your team feel completely unrestricted to share thoughts and have equal footing at the table. Don’t underestimate the role personal value can bring to the innovation ring.

12. Approval is overrated. You know you’re on to something when critics don’t ruffle your feathers and you’re confident enough in your own idea not to seek the world’s permission to do it. As Steve Jobs said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”.

13. Take baby steps. Forget mastering it immediately, getting the big idea on day one or expecting a breakthrough by the end of your first session. True innovation can take time.

14. Hang with your tribe. The doers, the creatives, the engineers, the big-picture thinkers, day dreamers, strategists and detail-oriented types. Find the people with a passion for the same thing and find more ways to spend more time with them. A shared coffee is still work, isn’t it?

15. Progress. Don’t forget the reason for innovation. It’s not creativity or the process or even the technology. We innovate to progress, to create change, to make things easier, more efficient or more engaging.


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