Without innovation, we'd be surrounded by thousands of businesses all offering exactly the same products and services as one another.
The idea of competition would be moot as we'd be able to choose any business without fear of missing out on something better.
These businesses, at whatever stage - start up, early stage, or more established - would all be following the same path, would all have the same type of owner, and would all most likely fail.
The market would become saturated and only one or two would survive (perhaps they were the first and retained the largest customer base), whilst the rest would disappear.
Innovation is what prevents this from happening and allows individuals to step forward from being business owners, as they become true entrepreneurs.
These entrepreneurial beings want to be (positively) disruptive and challenge what already exists as they strive to do things "better", with all that that entails...
There is a difference between an innovation and being innovative. The former can act as the reason a business exists, in terms of the creation of a product - for example, Luminescent which is a twist on the classic car alarm and number plate. The latter suggests constant innovation through iteration.
So, how can you strive against stagnation and drive innovation in your established, early stage, or start up business?
Hire individuals who think "outside-the-box".Innovations can come in all shapes and sizes, so seeing each person's contribution as a building block should help the business to move forward as a collective.
Consistent communication with your team.Collaboration between creative and analytical individuals can encourage the production of disruptive ideas. Making sure your team understands the direction you see the business moving in as it means that they can focus on getting it there in the most efficient and effective way.
Once you've achieved success, it's straight back to the drawing board.It could be easy to become complacent each time you reach a goal and think "that thing wasn't working so we changed it and now it does, so why change it again?". However, you're always in competition and there is somebody out there trying to attract your customers by offering something better, so you need to remain one step ahead.
The processes you use.As much as we like to think that creativity happens spontaneously, more often than not, it doesn't. Organised spontaneity, if you will, is a more productive process. See which processes work for you, the people on your team, and the business itself.
Count all innovations, big and small.If you work on being innovative internally, you may find it easier to carry on externally, too. The idea is that you'll learn more quickly what does and doesn't work. The brain is like a muscle and the power of creative thinking gets stronger the more you use it.
Keep an eye on the economic climate.Paired with changes in market conditions, this is a quick indicator of where innovations are needed. Use these changes as inspiration for your team and highlight new challenges which need overcoming through innovative-thinking.
Companies which innovate as the norm, are more likely to achieve success and growth than business which never seek to change.