How To Be Innovative: Stop Saying, "I'm Not Innovative Enough!"
People ask me all the time how to be innovative.
And the first thing I tell them? "Stop telling yourself you're not innovative." Why? Because you are innovative. Your neighbors are, your family members and your coworkers . We all are. And more and more, we have to be. In a rapidly changing world where technology does a lot of the baseline work we used to do, we need to solve challenges we’ve never encountered before. Those challenges demand that we innovate. (I also tell them I've got 5 great tips.)
If you were like me, you used to think that innovating was for the select few. The Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowlings and Richard Branson’s of the world had a monopoly on being innovative, right? Wrong.
With our 20-plus years of work and research, we’ve blown that thinking out of the water. Innovation isn’t for the select few. It’s for everyone. In fact, at LaunchStreet the following statement guides us daily and in our own work and the work we do with our clients.
“Being innovative is universal. We all do it. But how we innovate is unique to each one of us. So, when we unlock our natural innovation abilities, we unlock our greatest advantage in work and life.”
AN UNLIKELY INNOVATOR
Did you know it was the night janitor at a major factory in Japan who realized why the machines in the factory kept producing faulty products at certain times? The company was losing time and money - a lot of it. So, they put their “best” minds on the problem. And you know what? The engineers couldn’t figure it out. The scientists behind the work couldn’t figure it out. Yet, the man who emptied the trash, swept the floors and took the train to and from work every day, did.
One day at quitting time, he waited for the train to take him home. While standing at the station he felt the train roll in and it dawned on him. As it moved down the tracks, the train created a vibration. And, that vibration, by the time it traveled through the ground to the nearby factory, was going undetected by the humans in the factory, but not undetected by the machines. That very slight vibration that nobody could feel was enough to mess up the machines and cause major production issues.
Problem solved, millions saved and by someone you wouldn’t think would solve it. But, by someone who was paying attention, who was thinking outside of his janitorial world and who was willing to step forward with suggestions. It goes to show that innovation truly knows no boundaries.
5 ACTIVITIES ON HOW TO BE INNOVATIVE
If you're truly serious about becoming more innovative, you're in luck. But, there's a catch. Much like getting physically fit, you must choose to be innovative each day. You must excercise your “innovation muscles” and strengthen your innovation mind. Unlike the gym, however, where you breathe hard and sweat, getting your innovation workout in is actually pretty easy. In fact, here are 5 things you can do tap into your "inner innovator".
Exercise 1: Go Wide
Often times we make the mistake of keeping our heads down and going deep in one area. While it’s good to be an expert, innovation is often found when you go wide and pull in inspiration and insight from outside of your day to day world. Southwest Airlines went to an Indy Pit Crew for advice on how to speed up their turnaround time. At LaunchStreet, we look to our Crossfit experiences for inspiration on building community. So, go wide. Pull from your passions, experience, and life and then bring it all back to your work. If you go wide, and then deep, you’ll see innovation everywhere.
Exercise 2: Get Curious
Curiosity did not kill the cat. Lack of curiosity did. And your lack of curiosity may be killing your ability to innovate. Unfortunately, as we become more ingrained into "adult" life, we find ourselves surrounded by assumptions, rules, and “ways of doing things”. These patterns often cause us to stop questioning. Great innovation, however, is found in getting curious, asking questions and challenging those assumptions. As you walk through your daily patterns, stop and ask "Why?", "How?", "What if?", and "Why not?" at least once. Why do we have to do it this way? How come it’s assumed this has to happen? Is that actually a rule or just a way of doing something nobody has ever questioned? When you start the day with an innovation mindset, you'll find yourself asking these questions often.
Exercise 3: Know Your Innovation Strengths
Did you know you actually have natural innovation strengths? Strengths that can help you innovate on demand, perform at your peak, and ignite more innovative ideas and solutions? When you know how you innovate best, and what’s sabotaging your efforts, you can unlock your greatest competitive advantage - your innovative mind. Imagine starting your day knowing how to put your best self into action to tackle your biggest challenges and opportunities. That’s what innovators do. You’ll work smarter, not harder and bring innovation to life in everything you do! You know how to be innovative already? You just have to rediscover your strengths.
Exercise 4: Create Conflict
Get into an argument. Yes, I just told you to argue with someone. Just do it constructively. Innovation happens in moments of tension when things are stretched, pulled and poked. When you are surrounded by “yes” people, you miss opportunities to find holes in your thinking and to strengthen them. Instead, create moments of constructive conflict. The key, however, is to remember that you are debating ideas, not people. The next time you brainstorm, or someone comes to you with an idea, disagree or look for the holes. In the long run, the idea will be stronger and more meaningful. Innovators should always up for a good debate if it moves the idea forward.
Exercise 5: Build Diverse Teams
Sure, birds of a feather flock together, but that doesn't mean that flock has solid, successful ideas. Ideas, however, that come from diverse perspectives - maybe a flamingo, a pelican and a raven - tend to thrive. Innovators recognize the power of diversity and work to surround themselves with others not like them. Make it a goal to seek out people who don’t work in your department, hold your views or have your experiences. Doing so will help you innovate in new and surprising ways.
So which exercise will you put into action? Go ahead, pick at least one. If you're feeling super motivated, pick all five, I mean, why not? Whatever exercise you choose, take action today and watch the innovation flow.
And if you're really interested in rediscovering your innovation strengths and turbocharging your life, click the button below.