Innovation: Size Is No Excuse

I had a remarkable if not surprising experience last week. It was a Sunday, and I was destined for a day of profound laziness. I headed to the grocery store for the required nutriments. As I approached the front of the store, I had prepared for the walk of shame, whereby I would refuse the obligatory purchase of Girl Scout cookies. I had a perfectly valid excuse, I had no cash. innovation

As it turns out the Girl Scouts now accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express. I watched in horror as a 12 year old processed my order on Square, asked for my signature on her iPhone and offered to send me a receipt. I saw my fitness goals melt before my very eyes in a sea of overly available Samoas and Thin Mints.

It got me to thinking; I sure hear a lot of excuses by companies saying that they are not technologically savvy or innovative because they are small. They can’t make their transactions fast or seamless because they lack resources. If you are of that mindset, I have news for you. You have been outdone by a bunch of adolescent girls in brown vests with bad complexions.

There are two other arguments that retort the small company vs. large company argument. First, most innovation today is coming from start-ups, companies smaller than those saying they are too small. Second, it is a universal truth that all big companies were once small. They earned the right to be big by beating the competition, usually through some form of innovation.

If you are small and lack resources, there are still ways to innovate. There are consultants who can provide advice without adding to a company’s fixed expense structure. There are online panels and other methods for gathering information about customer’s wants and needs. There are technology and ecommerce platforms (such as Square) that are cheap and seamless to use. There are advisory boards you can build with your customers that are almost free.

In my mind, innovation has nothing to do with size, and everything to do with mindset. Not everyone in this world is innovative. Studies done with twins have suggested that creativity is a skill only some of us are born with. For others it is a learned skill, and we have to work at it. If innovation is an important part a company’s business discipline (which it may or may not be), the entrepreneur needs to surround himself with people who bring new ideas to the table.

So stop whining like a 12 year old and enjoy their cookies instead. Innovation doesn’t come in a little rectangular box, you are going to have to work for it.