Fostering Innovation

Innovation is the catalyst for business growth. But being 'innovative' means being open to new ideas and technology, and making a commitment to adapt to industry changes.

Innovation is essential for success. But you don't have to reinvent the wheel to be innovative. In fact, small, incremental changes are just as powerful.

However, even small changes can be hard to find and maintain without the right processes and systems in place to support innovation.


Good communication is at the heart of team work and leadership. Make sure your staff know the business goals your business is striving towards and the fact you support innovation.

  • Start an in-house e-newsletter that gives you a platform for leadership and celebrating innovative ideas from the team
  • Incentivize innovation by allowing time for staff to work on their own pet projects and tie this into professional development opportunities for greater job satisfaction and lower staff turnover
  • Schedule regular, time-boxed brainstorming or presentation meetings, as research shows brainstorming is most effective for problem-solving, while working independently is most effective for creativity
  • Try using 10-15 minute 'stand-up meetings' in which people stand to remind themselves that the meeting is intended to be productive and brief


Innovation thrives in business cultures that encourage open-door policies and provide staff with the time and resources to experiment.

  • Appoint an 'idea champion' to make sure good ideas are followed through rather than forgotten about
  • Make an effort to talk to staff informally on the work floor, rather than waiting for performance reviews in your office, to break down barriers and encourage ideas and opinions
  • Make sure staff are given the resources to properly develop innovative ideas by building innovation into your budgets
  • Remember to always be receptive, and if a staff member's idea isn't going to be feasible, it's an opportunity to help them learn more about the business
  • Encourage failure - it sounds counterintuitive, but innovation comes from experimentation, and if you ruthlessly punish failure, you're much less likely to foster innovation


Staff must be rewarded for good ideas. If this doesn't happen in a fair way, you'll find it harder to gain buy-in from staff in the future. But this doesn't have to cost the world - after all, acknowledging success doesn't have to cost anything at all.

  • Always make sure other staff involved in an innovative idea share or own the credit, never be tempted to hog the limelight

Look at ways to introduce kaizen (or continuous improvement) into the business. This Japanese concept for productivity places a focus on producing ideas from every member of staff. Interestingly, while Canadian businesses tend to reward cost-saving or innovative ideas with cash rewards, Japanese businesses pay their employees comparatively little for their ideas, but get far more ideas per employee.

Systems and processes

Finally, here are some ideas you could use to encourage innovation in your business:

  • Regular brainstorming sessions with staff
  • Having in place a continuous improvement scheme for products/services, and business systems
  • Delegating staff to research
  • Encouraging fact-finding travel or visits to similar businesses
  • Encouraging professional development
  • 'Mystery shopping' your opposition

Next steps:

  • Talk to your CIBC business advisor about the CIBC Small Business Growth Package and make sure you have the financial solutions you need to help you take your business to the next level.
  • Check out the CIBC Guide to Business Planning to ensure you have covered all the bases as you plan to grow your business.

Small Business Growth Package

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