Who doesn't want to be more innovative?
If only you could somehow become more innovative...
Part of the reason people have trouble being innovative is that they misunderstand it.
Innovation is popularly assumed to be some mysterious Steve Jobs-like force -- the ability to pull white rabbits out of black hats in an awe-inspiring display of native brilliance, sizzling creativity, and world-changing vision.
Innovation produced wonders like the airplane, the automobile, the semiconductor, the personal computer, the iPhone, the Uber concept, the Airbnb business model, and so on.
In other words, obviously, innovation is something far beyond the reach of mere mortals.
In reality, innovativeness is something each of us could improve. While some people are indeed more (or less) intellectually gifted, anyone can take a few simple measures to improve innovativeness.
To innovate is simply to make changes for the better, usually with some new method, product, process, or procedure. A manager can be an innovator. A content writer can be an innovator. Innovation can flow from an in-house marketer, a solopreneur, a business owner, and virtually anyone else who decides they want to make a change.
So, how can you become more innovative?
Observation is at the core of innovation. Fast Co. writer David Brier researched the life and work of Steve Jobs and Sir Richard Branson, two notable innovators of the modern era. Here's what he discovered.
"I concluded that this was the single difference between the innovator and the ordinary person: one saw the dots and connected them while others 1) didn't see them or 2) if they did, they didn't explore, question, or connect any of them."
Seeing dots and connecting the dots. That's the spirit of innovation.
In other words, innovators remain observant and curious rather than merely allowing life to happen. They examine what takes place and seek ways to make it different.
2. Connect dots intentionally.
Innovation begins with observation, but the real spark happens when you connect the dots.
What does it mean to connect the dots? Connecting dots is thinking about one experience or piece of knowledge in relation to other dots that may or may not appear naturally related.
The concept is surprisingly simple, yet incredibly difficult to implement. It requires a holistic mindset, one of pairing, associating, and unity as opposed to one of singularity, independence, and overly analytical categorization.
Let's use Airbnb as an example. Airbnb started with the idea of providing affordable lodging for people.
Rather than go the customary route of hotels and motels, they simply took that idea and paired it with their existing knowledge. People have homes in all shapes and sizes. Better yet, homes are everywhere! Thus, Airbnb was born.
Simple concept, but incredibly innovative.
Uber used a similar principle in their disruption of the taxi industry. Rather than push forward to improve taxi service, build a public transportation infrastructure, or lower vehicle emissions, they did something much simpler -- allowed people to pay for rides in others' vehicles.
You take one piece of knowledge -- an idea, desire, plan, or goal -- and look for the connections with other pieces of knowledge, conditions, tools, and situations. It's simple but difficult, I know.
Innovation is sparked when you start looking at and making connections between the things you see, know, and think.
3. Reject the concept of can't.
Innovation is inclusive and optimistic. It allows for concepts, knowledge, and experience from all arenas of life.
Innovation has an arch-nemesis: can't.
"I can't," "we can't," "that can't," "it can't" -- this thought process is lethal to innovation.
View the "can'ts" in your thinking as temporary roadblocks and opportunities for growth. They exist for a moment, and with that moment, you are granted an opportunity to make enhancements, be they in the form of choices, energy, resources, personnel, or strategy. Those choices can neutralize your doubts.
Often, the most helpful thing to do to overcome doubt is to view things you thought were impossible as possible.
Everything and anything is possible, to some extent. Thinking like that will begin to chip away at your roadblocks and make way for innovation.
4. Embrace discomfort.
My definition of innovation has change at its core.
When you are comfortable, chances are nothing is changing in your life. Entrepreneur contributor Chris Ruisi wrote,
"The key to leading change? Become comfortable with discomfort."
Sure, change is uncomfortable, but it's the only path to progress and innovation. When you're uncomfortable, you are in a ripe position to stop, examine, and find ways to change your life. Your mind recognizes that something is not right and searches for equilibrium, a way to break through the logjam of discomfort.
The breakthrough moment is the onset of innovation. Full innovation, the chemistry that takes a thought and turns it into an action and eventually a product, is unattainable unless you're willing to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
5. Share resources.
If making connections is the path to innovation, then tying together resources is the basic building block for paving the way to innovation.
The advent of content marketing has been a huge step forward in the global sharing of knowledge resources. A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for a business to explain exactly how it accomplishes success, solves problems, or produces a remarkable product. That would have been synonymous with giving business away.
Today? Content is available and free of charge to anyone who searches for it. You can figure out how to optimize your website for search engines, write a compelling white paper, growth hack your business, succeed as an entrepreneur, or any other subject or topic that you want to know about.
Sharing resources, particularly knowledge resources, is one of the most effective ways to innovate and to build long-lasting change that people actually want.
6. Try, fail, bounce back, and try again.
Innovation is pointless if you're not willing to go all the way with it.
Know this. Innovation doesn't happen without a few episodes of failure.
Failure is not necessarily a stopping point. It certainly shouldn't kill creativity or dampen ambition. Failure can open up new vistas of possibility, innovation, and creativity.
Research confirms this. In his article, "Why Failure Drives Innovation," Baba Shiv of Stanford University writes,
""Failure" is a dreaded concept for most business people. But failure can actually be a huge engine of innovation for an individual or an organization. The trick lies in approaching it with the right attitude and harnessing it as a blessing, not a curse."
Failure will lead you onward and upward to new levels of creativity.
Innovation is required for success, as is failure, discomfort, thoughtfulness, and an inclusive mindset.
Glancing through business journals and periodicals will inform you of this reality.
For example, one Forbes article makes the case that U.S. firms are dying because of a failure to innovate. A management white paper explains: "Innovation is the single biggest reason why some companies are successful."
The other side of the equation is also true: "Lack of innovation is why many companies fail."
The best part is, you don't need permission to start innovating. Take heed and start today.
How do you push yourself to innovate?