Innovation is the driving force behind some of the most influential companies on the planet; for instance, what would we make of Apple if innovation in design wasn't at the heart of its products and brand identity?
Differentiating yourself in a busy marketplace is never an easy feat, so taking an innovative approach to product design, how you interact with your customers or clients, or generally how you run your business can be a key differentiator for your firm.
Indeed, it can mean the difference between success and failure for many small businesses.
Who's at the forefront of innovation?
Inspiration can come from many sources, but for small businesses aiming to make their mark, it can sometimes come from those already making waves in their field. With that in mind, here we offer insights from Fast Company's latest research into the world's most innovative companies of 2019:
The Chinese tech giant uses apps to facilitate transactions for more than 350 million people.
The Singapore-based ride-sharing platform forced Uber out of Southeast Asia and has become the most popular platform in the area.
Rather than investing in buying its competitors in the streaming video market, Disney is looking at designing its own bespoke service.
4. Stitch Fix
Using the power of AI to deliver sized 'fashion fixes' without the need for buyers to be measured.
Using smarter delivery systems to help customers receive fresh meals and produce faster.
Developed a new plant-based coating that can double or even triple the shelf life of foods.
Making transactions less painful by creating new smartphone-enabled ways for consumers to pay.
Created a new cow's milk alternative made wholly from oats - perfect for those with lactose intolerance.
Powering a live streaming revolution in a way that delivers greater personalization and interaction between performers and their audience.
Developed 'one-click ordering' that has helped transform the way consumers purchase goods online.
Seamlessly bringing the challenge, camaraderie and support of the spin fitness class into people's homes.
Blending the digital and physical experience to create "New Retail" - bringing together online and offline shopping into a single, unified consumer experience.
Using cutting-edge image authentication technology to combat deep fakes and disinformation.
Developed a new processor chip - the A12 Bionic - to deliver faster performance, lower power consumption and more speed.
Offering free 3D development tools to help indy game developers bring their dreams to reality.
Offering a suite of banking APIs, enabling developers to connect new digital tools to legacy financial systems.
Developed a new cloud-based workflow system to allow businesses to better analyze data.
Delivers over 90% of refrigerated foods in the US, but the company has managed to reduce its overall energy consumption by 34% in the last three years.
Created kits that make coding simple and fun for kids with toys that aim to inspire young people to get into technology development.
Bringing a love of fine wines to a new audience by flipping the traditional business model for vintners on its head.
Developed a new bio-reactor that’s the first of its kind and able to transform CO2 emissions into a form of fuel.
Supporting the use of online IDs and anti-fraud activities through the partnership of new AI software and human reviewers.
Matching cancer patients with breakthrough treatments by analyzing tissue samples for alterations across 324 genes known to drive cancer.
A direct-to-customer skincare brand that focuses on ethical and sustainable beauty products.
Developing new natural seed coatings to enhance the hardiness of crops to help ensure they can survive any potential impact of climate change.
Having grown to become the largest digital bank outside of Asia, the company is focused on offering low-fee credit cards and payment accounts for the underbanked.
Scaling up higher education opportunities for young people across the African continent.
Helping to reduce waste in the fashion industry by enabling brands to offer shoppers a range of customizable options for their purchases.
Simplifying fertility testing by more accurately measuring specific hormone levels in the blood to allow for faster, more accurate results.
Creating bespoke and unique consumer products to appeal to buyers who want something that’s just for them.
All the above businesses are doing something new, unique or interesting that helps them to stand out from the crowd. If you want you to succeed as a small business, it's up to you to find your own inspiration for innovation.