Innovation is about challenging and improving our thinking. “What most distinguishes highly successful innovators from those who struggle, is their skill at systematically revising their own mental models—at iterating what’s happening inside their heads.” D.Stauffer,
When the word “innovation” is mentioned, most people may think of extraordinary inventions created by outstanding geniuses. However, the majority of business and society innovations today are not created by exceptional geniuses. They are created by people who are focusing on generating ideas in collaboration with customers, partners and employees. The companies that generate innovations thrive on exchange of ideas and regular interactions with customers, employees and other stakeholders. They innovate not necessarily to revolutionize their industry, but to meet specific business goals and enhance a competitive edge.
Possibly, the most important is that innovative companies do not outsource innovation function to a department or agency. For them innovation is a way of life. It is what they do. Innovation is integrated in their business culture and mindset.
As the term “Innovation Mindset” would suggest, innovation is a state of mind, more than intrinsic talent or element of being genius. There are lot of tips and strategies on how to enhance the innovation mindset. My favourite are the following five:
1. Develop constant curiosity
Strive to understand what makes people tick. How their thinking habits work. Innovation is a process, not a destination. You want to create something meaningful that would add value or make an impact, not just innovating for sake of innovation.
Recently a friend from Colombia visited me in London. She is developing her business in selling a special occasion dresses and accessories. I was amazed to see how she was discovering ideas for her emerging business while sightseeing in the central London, exploring the musical styles exhibition or reading the adverts in the underground train. Constant curiosity helps her to discover new and effective ways of communicating to her customers.
2. Challenge your thinking for opportunities and possibilities
Notice and throw away any limiting believes. Choose the thinking pattern of “yes, and…” instead of “yes, but…”. Think bigger every time.
Look for ideas from anywhere. Constantly. Seek for “how could it work” rather than “why it will not work”. Approach the innovation with the belief that anything is possible and you just need to figure out the way how it is possible. Learn from mistakes, find another way and carry on. Steve Jobs in relation has said: “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations”.
3. Be bold and trust your guts
Go to market or society and implement your innovation even if you are not 100% ready. It is quite common to come up with new ideas and become obsessed with them or focus on making the outcomes perfect. Don’t spend huge amounts of time to perfectionize – be bold, get it out there and seek for feedback to improve. Learn to fail and learn from the feedback and your mistakes. As well as you learn from your achievements.
To ignite innovation, fuel the inspiration from within. Trust your guts and what intuition tells you. Push your thinking boundaries. Create explosive reactions. “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got”, Albert Einstein.
4. Welcome diversity
Learn from people who are different, who have come from different cultures, environments, development, thinking habits. Learn from the way how they think and how they look for solutions. Donald Fan in his article “Proof That Diversity Drives Innovation” mentions: “Research confirms that diversity is a valuable resource for innovation. Prof. Ron Burt of the University of Chicago conducted an empirical study indicating that people with more diverse sources of information generate consistently better ideas”. I am noticing that in my diverse global team every week – how different and effective solutions we can generate welcoming opinions and ideas of people from different countries.
5. Take action to add value
Is it innovating for profitable growth, customer engagement, business sustainability and agility, productivity, greater service or any other purpose – take an action to implement it, communicate your added value and strive to hear how it works. Execution is part of innovation.
Adding value, making life easier or more enjoyable is part of innovation. I recently participated in the leadership team meeting where our customer Heijmans shared how their company innovates with their customers. It was example about designing and constructing smart highways. “Smart Highway is the result of an intensive collaboration between builder and developer Heijmans and designer Daan Roosegaarde. The themes sustainability, safety and perception are key to the concept and are manifested in the newest technologies in energy and light”, www.smarthighways.org . The architect had an inspirational idea to make smart highways. He kept communicating and sharing this inspiration until one city mayor in Netherlands gave this idea a try in his governed city. This teaches me – persistence guides to success.
This leads to a summary conclusion – persistence does guide to a success. If you have an idea of innovation that will add value, take an action and keep you persistence alert. It shall lead to success sooner or later.