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RESTART Resilience and Training for SMEs

Innovation and exploiting opportunities
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Did you know that almost 60% of European SMEs introduced innovation since the beginning of the COVID pandemic? Did you know that the European SMEs more open to innovation were also the most resilient to the COVID crisis?


Fundamentals of Innovation

What is Innovation? Click to read  

Innovation refers to the process of creating new ideas, products, services, or processes, and implementing them in a successful way.


Different types of innovation:

Product innovation: design new or improved products
Process innovation: develop new or upgraded ways of production
Business model innovation: creating new or optimized business models
Organizational innovation: conceive new or more efficient organizational structures


Importance of innovation in business:

Allows companies to remain competitive

Can lead to increased efficiency and cost savings

Can lead to new revenue streams

Can lead to improved products and services (i.e. reducing the Carbon footprint)


Examples of Innovation:

Apple's introduction of the iPhone

Amazon's use of data and technology to improve the online shopping experience

Tesla's development of electric cars

Netflix's streaming business model for content

Definition of key concepts: What is social innovation?Click to read  

Social innovation refers to the creation and implementation of new ideas, products, services, or processes that address societal challenges and improve the well-being of individuals and communities.
Types of Social Innovation:

Community-based innovation: solutions designed and developed by local communities and MSMEs

Policy-based innovation: solutions conceived and executed by government or non-profit organizations and MSMEs

Market-based innovation: solutions implemented by for-profit companies (including MSMEs)


Examples of Social Innovation:

FINANCE. Microfinance institutions providing financial services to low-income individuals.

SOLAR ENERGY. Solar-powered water pumps increasing access to clean water in rural areas.

TRANSPORTATION. Ride-sharing apps reducing transportation barriers for individuals with disabilities.

EDUCATION. Online education platforms providing access to education for individuals in remote areas.

ENVIRONMENT. Community gardens and urban farming initiatives promoting healthy food access and community building in urban areas.


Importance of Social Innovation:

  • Addresses societal issues and improves quality of life.
  • Can lead to sustainable and scalable solutions.
  • Can involve community participation and empowerment.
Definition of key concepts: What is green innovation?Click to read  

Green (or Eco) Innovation refers to the creation and implementation of new ideas, products, services, or processes that have a positive impact on the environment, while also providing economic benefits
Types of green Innovation:

Product innovation

designing new products that have a lower environmental impact

Process innovation

creating new or improved ways of production that have a lower environmental impact

Business model innovation

developing new or optimized business models that have a lower environmental impact.

Behavioral innovation

encouraging changes in consumer behavior that reduce environmental impact

Examples of green Innovation:
  • Electric vehicles
  • Renewable energy sources
  • Eco-friendly packaging
  • Water conservation technologies


Importance of green Innovation:
  • Reduces environmental impact and addresses climate change
  • Can lead to cost savings and increased efficiency
  • Can create new revenue streams and market opportunities
Creativity and critical thinking

Overview of the conceptsClick to read  

What are creativity and critical thinking?
Creativity is the ability to generate new and useful ideas, while critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze and evaluate information in order to make sound decisions
Why creativity is so important?

Enables the development of new products, services, and processes

Can lead to more efficient and effective problem-solving

Can foster innovation and improve productivity

Allows for the development of new and unique ideas, leading to innovation and progress


 Why critical thinking is so important?
Allows for the identification and evaluation of assumptions
Improves decision-making and problem-solving abilities
Helps to identify and evaluate evidence and arguments
Operative aspectsClick to read  

 Techniques for Developing Creativity and Critical Thinking

  Brainstorming and Mind Mapping

  Reading and Researching

  Questioning and Challenging Assumptions

  Divergent and Convergent thinking

  Reflecting and Learning from Experience

How Creativity and Critical Thinking are related?
Both are important for innovation and problem-solving
Creativity generates new ideas, while critical thinking evaluates and improves them
Both require an open-minded and curious attitude


Recommendations for enterprises

Social and green innovationClick to read  

To boost social and green innovation, entrepreneurs should:

  1. Assess your current business model: Assess your current business model and identify areas where social and eco innovation could be implemented. This could include changes to your products, services, or production methods, or the introduction of new business models.
  2. Research and stay informed: Keep abreast of the latest trends, technologies, and best practices in social and eco innovation. This will help you to identify new opportunities and stay ahead of the competition.
  3. Engage with your community: Engage with your local community to understand their needs and concerns. This can help you to identify social and eco innovation opportunities that align with community priorities.
  4. Encourage employee participation: Encourage your employees to share their ideas and be a part of the innovation process. This can lead to a more engaged workforce and a wider range of innovative ideas.
  5. Invest in sustainable practices: Invest in sustainable practices, such as energy-efficient equipment, recycling programs, and eco-friendly products. This can help you to reduce your environmental impact and save money on utility costs.
  6. Invest in research and development: Invest in research and development to explore new opportunities for social and eco innovation. This could include developing new products, services, or production methods, or exploring new business models.
  7. Collaborate with other businesses and organizations: Collaborate with other businesses and organizations to share knowledge and resources. This can lead to more effective and efficient innovation
  8. Measure and communicate impact: Measure the impact of your social and eco innovation efforts, and communicate this impact to your customers, employees, and other stakeholders. This can help to build trust and support for your business.
  9. Be open to change and adaptability: Be open to change and adaptability, be ready to pivot or change your approach if it is not working.
  10. Compliance with regulations and standards: Be aware of the regulations and standards regarding social and eco innovation, and comply with them.
Creativity and critical thinkingClick to read  

To boost creativity and critical thinking, entrepreneurs should:

  1. Embrace a culture of creativity and critical thinking: Create an environment that encourages creativity and critical thinking by fostering open communication, encouraging experimentation and risk-taking, and valuing diverse perspectives.
  2. Provide training and development opportunities: Provide training and development opportunities for employees to enhance their creativity and critical thinking skills. This could include workshops, seminars, and mentoring programs.
  3. Stimulate brainstorming and idea generation: Encourage brainstorming and idea generation sessions to generate new and innovative ideas.
  4. Encourage questioning and challenging assumptions: Encourage employees to question assumptions and challenge the status quo. This can lead to new and innovative ideas.
  5. Support reflection and learning: Encourage employees to reflect on their experiences and learn from them. This can help to improve problem-solving and decision-making abilities.
  6. Use critical thinking in decision-making: Incorporate critical thinking into the decision-making process by encouraging employees to evaluate different options, identify and mitigate risks, and make well-informed decisions.
  7. Encourage collaboration: Encourage collaboration among employees to share ideas and perspectives. This can lead to more innovative solutions.
  8. Seek out diverse perspectives: Seek out diverse perspectives from employees, customers, and other stakeholders to broaden your perspective and find new and innovative solutions.
  9. Be open to feedback: Be open to feedback and be willing to adapt and change your approach when necessary.
  10. Reward creativity and critical thinking: Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate creativity and critical thinking. This can help to foster a culture of innovation and encourage continued growth and development.
Summing up

Summing upClick to read  

  • Innovation helps firms to be more competitive, efficient, increase revenues and improves goods/services
  • Social and green innovation are crucial for addressing societal challenges and improving the well-being of individuals and communities, but the challenges need to be addressed for them to be successful.
  • Creativity is important for business because it allows companies to develop new and innovative ideas, products and services which can lead to increased revenue and competitiveness.
  • Critical thinking is important for companies because it enables their staff to make informed decisions and solve problems effectively.
  • Implementing social and eco-innovations can improve the company's reputation and attract socially conscious consumers, while also reducing operational costs and promoting sustainability.
  • Business owners should foster creativity and critical thinking. They can lead to increased innovation, problem-solving, and decision-making capabilities, resulting in improved business performance and competitiveness.


By the end of this module, you will have a deep understanding of the importance of innovation, social innovation, and green innovation in business. Not only will you understand the definitions and concepts of creativity and critical thinking, but you'll also learn how to embed these essential skills into the culture and processes of your organization. Moreover, you will be equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to drive innovation and success in your business.

ESCO competencies and skills:
Transversal skills and competences
Social and emotional skills
Critical thinking
Analytical thinking
Business management
Product marketing
Business management
Checklist of benefits for entrepreneurs

✓ Improved competitiveness: By innovating, entrepreneurs can develop new products, services or business models that set them apart from their competitors.

✓ Increased efficiency and productivity: Creative thinking and critical thinking skills can help entrepreneurs identify and solve problems more effectively, leading to improved operations and cost savings.

✓ Enhanced ability to adapt to change: Being open to new ideas and constantly seeking out new ways of doing things can help entrepreneurs stay agile and responsive to changes in the market or industry.


Innovation, social innovation, green innovation, creativity, critical thinking


Frone, S. (2011) Green Technologies: Concepts, methodologies, tools and applications. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.

Godwin, E.U. (2020) Small Business Innovation. Arcler Education Incorporated.

Mulgan, G. (2019) Social Innovation: How Societies find the power to change. Bristol: Policy Press.

Robinson, A.G. and Stern, S. (1998) Corporate creativity: How innovation and improvement actually happen. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Schoenberg, B. (2016) Critical thinking in business. Saint Charles, MO: Heuristic Books.










Related Glossary

  • Innovation:
    Innovation refers to the process of creating new ideas, products, services, or processes, and implementing them in a successful way.
  • Social innovation:
    Social innovation refers to the creation and implementation of new ideas, products, services, or processes that address societal challenges and improve the well-being of individuals and communities.
  • Green Innovation:
    Green (or Eco) Innovation refers to the creation and implementation of new ideas, products, services, or processes that have a positive impact on the environment, while also providing economic benefits.
  • Creativity:
    Creativity is the ability to generate new and useful ideas.
  • Critical thinking:
    Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze and evaluate information in order to make sound decisions.
  • See all terms

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