As our industry faces uncertain times and increased regulation, you may be struggling to find innovative ways to build your business. Matthew May, an author and innovation consultant, has three rules to drive innovation: ingenuity, perfection and fit. Imperfection drives innovation, he writes, as you struggle to perfect your business. May provides 10 best practices to help guide you through the process.

1) Let learning lead. Learning precedes innovation, May writes. “Learning is defined as the creation of new knowledge through experimentation.”

  • Ask yourself: To what degree is experimentation built into your core work processes? What routines are in place to quickly pilot new ideas?

2) Learn to see. Pay attention to those around you. Your clients can be a great source of innovation.

  • Ask yourself: How well do you understand your clients’ problems? What part do they play in the solution?

3) Design for today. While this doesn’t mean you can ignore long-term planning for your clients, if you don’t focus on what you need to do today, your plans will only ever be ideas.

  • Ask yourself: What need does your solution meet? What market or demographic needs your help?

4) Think in pictures. When you present your solution, do so visually. May quotes Aristotle: “The soul does not think without a picture.”

  • Ask yourself: What does the solution look like? What opportunities do you have to demonstrate it visually?

5) Capture intangible value. “The most compelling solutions are often perceptual and emotional,” May writes.

  • Ask yourself: How do you connect with your clients on an emotional level? What one word would your clients use to describe your uniqueness?

6) Leverage the limitations. Hollywood’s Production Code effectively censored almost every movie made between 1930 and 1968. That didn’t stop film makers from creating works of art (Casablanca, anyone? Psycho?). Embrace your limitations and work with them.

  • Ask yourself: How do your goals stimulate new thinking? Are resource constraints blocking innovation or enabling it?

7) Master creative tension. “Breakthrough thinking demands something to break through,” May writes. Set goals high, and don’t back down.

  • Ask yourself: What mechanisms do you use to address challenges? What tools do you use to guide your thinking?

8) Run the numbers. Temper instinct with insight, May suggests.

  • Ask yourself: What critical success factors are undervalued in your market? What patterns do you need to investigate to challenge convention?

9) Make kaizen mandatory. Kaizen is a Japanese term for continuous improvement, May writes.

  • Ask yourself: How do you encourage new ideas? How do you sustain a constant flow of ideas?

10) Keep it lean. Target and trim anything you don’t need. May writes, “complexity kills value,” so keep it simple.

  • Ask yourself: How easy is it for customers to get value from you? What would your customers love for you to stop doing?