Innovation is what drives business forward. If a business stops innovating, it is basically dead. Think of innovation as swimming. Not only does swimming keep your head above water, but it allows you to move towards your goals. Innovation today is more important than ever. The business climate is extremely competitive. Fierce. The old saying that you either have to be first, the best or different to succeed is apt. Why not be the first? Why not be different? Sure, everyone wants to be first and innovate so that they are different. However, how does a business go about this? The following 5 tips will help improve your approach to innovation in management practices:1. Innovation prizes – Be wary of innovation prizes. This seems counter-intuitive. Rewards provide an incentive to innovate. However, employees actually care more about having the opportunity to make a difference with their ideas. Sure, they want to be recognized for their ideas, but they there is a big difference between recognizing the ideas that your employees put forth and a prize for innovation. A prize serves to marginalize all of the other employees that put forth their ideas. Rewards, therefore, tend to stifle innovation within a company. Instead, place a high value on ideas and recognize those who are able to produce a large number of them on a regular basis.2. Lightning strikes – The “aha” moment that is so stereotypical of innovation does not happen as often as you might expect. In fact, it does not portray an accurate image of an effective innovation strategy at all. Ideas that lead to a lightning strike of an idea are important – sure. But they could just amount to quick flash of lightning without anything coming from them. A great idea should be viewed as the starting point for innovation, not the focus. Focus on the follow through of the great idea. That is where the real innovation happens.3. Forget the online forums – Online forums have been hailed as such a great thing for business innovation. The example of IBM’s “Innovation Jam” has been heralded within the business community. However, in most cases, online innovation forums end up stagnating if they aren’t nurtured. People need to be groomed in order to use the forums to drive innovation. If you have a huge company with a pre-existing culture of innovation, then an online forum might work. For the average business, innovation is best handled in person at a workshop.4. Open innovation – It is all the rage in the business community. But what’s all the buzz about? Really, open innovation can lead to a lot of problems down the road. Your business can get tangled up on a lot of legal red tape very quickly with this type of innovation practice. Best to avoid it unless you have a narrow technology problem to solve and an active community to tap.5. Top-down innovation – Many scoff at top down innovation because the guys at the top of the building in the corner offices don’t have a clue, right? Well, sure, they may be out of touch to some degree, but direction from the top down is still essential to the innovation process. Instead of simply relying on a bottom up innovation effort for your business or the businesses that you work with, encourage a mixture of top down and bottom up innovation practices. The right combination of the two will provide synergy for innovation.