In a rapidly changing world, innovation is more commonplace than ever. If you can participate in – or even drive – some of that innovation, you automatically increase your value, as well as your productivity and level of success.
There are a great many factors that contribute to a person’s ability to innovate, ranging from innate creativity to necessity – which as you know is the mother of invention.
Fortunately, some of these factors are under your control, which allows you to cultivate them and thereby increase your chances of coming up with one or more useful innovations.
Here are some techniques that can help you become a more active participant at today’s high-octane innovation party:
Stockpile Your Ideas
One of the best ways to increase your ability to innovate is to hang onto your ideas, not just the good ones, but also the stupid, crazy, wrong, silly, and otherwise worthless ones.
Why? Because even “worthless” ideas can turn out to have value:
- In another context,
- By sparking a better idea,
- By “piggybacking” or combining with another idea,
- As it naturally develops and improves in your brain.
That’s why it’s a helpful to write down your ideas, and to review them from time to time, or at least name them or categorize them so they don’t get lost and forgotten in the attic of your memory.
Set a Target
Creativity is essential to innovation, but a key difference between them, according to Dr. Alan Lish, Professor of Practice at the University of Houston, is that “innovation involves identifying processes, services, or products that are not working well or can be improved, and trying to find a new solution to the problem.”
Once you can clearly state the problem you’re trying to solve, it’s far easier to identify a possible answer by starting with the well-understood universe of solutions that people have already developed.
Acclimate to Discomfort
It’s common for good, new ideas to come packaged with discomfort. You may feel:
- Fearful about how people will judge you and your idea,
- Uncertain about how well your idea will work out,
- Agitated by the implications of what you’re thinking,
- Foolish or embarrassed that your idea may be mistaken,
- Hesitant or even paralyzed in the face of your idea’s enormity,
- Stressed by the demands or the risks inherent in your idea,
or something else.
It’s difficult or impossible to avoid the discomfort that may be packaged with your innovative idea, but that’s no reason to shy away from what you’re contemplating.
A more fruitful strategy, instead, is to strive to become less intimidated by such discomfort, and to plow ahead in spite of it.
Revisit Your Days of Schooling
Students of any age innately accept their situation: They acknowledge there is plenty they don’t know, and they dig into their job of learning it (or at least some of it). This is a helpful mindset that lays the groundwork for innovation.
When you open your mind and your heart to learning, you expose yourself to new data, concepts, principles, and possibilities. You begin to question basic assumptions and seek explanations for what experts have already accepted. You can even begin to ask “What if?” questions that challenge the status quo and explore new avenues of thought.
This level of curiosity naturally triggers ideas that are new to you – and possibly new to the world.
Because innovation, like all creativity, often involves juxtaposing ideas that might not seem to go well together, it’s helpful to bring people together to look at problems or seek opportunities.
Collaborators can take your ideas and expand or modify them to become more useful. You can do the same with their ideas. This back-and-forth stair-stepping can lead to better, faster, more useful innovation than any one person can deliver on their own.
It works even better when the interaction involves some polite disagreement and dissension. A measure of conflict between ideas, strategies, philosophies, and approaches helps to nurture the development of totally new thoughts.
One of the good things about trying to innovate is that it’s usually an enjoyable and rewarding process. Once you start doing it, you’ll like doing it. And once you like doing it, you’ll want to do it more and more often.
The result is a virtuous cycle of creativity and innovation that becomes an on-ramp to increased satisfaction, productivity, and success in your work and your life.
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