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Innovation is a big topic for companies. But what about you, behind your computer, thinking: “I’m not an innovator,” or maybe just tired of trying new things when life hits you with COVID, crisis, or rejection?
Whatever the case might be for you, I think we always need a little boost to see the future with optimism and feel solution-driven again.
Here is how I would do it to refresh myself.
Remember innovation is not what is usually implied.
Today, we hear “innovation,” and it implies that we are talking about a tech-based, Steve Jobs type of innovation. Yes, that is one possibility, one meaning. It is called disruptive innovation.
But if you look at the etymology of the word, it is first and foremost about reinventing, improving… and not necessarily about revolutionary inventions. This is called incremental innovation, and is sometimes regarded as an “unworthy” kind of innovation.
But I’m a big believer that being an innovator is a mindset first. This is the first thing I say in my keynotes and when I coach executives and leaders.
And believe it or not, you are one, even if you don’t feel like one, because we are all creative. It is in our DNA as humans. It is a muscle we can all work, our way. I make this distinction because of the pressure the word, “innovation” brings on our shoulders. Especially if you work in a company.
But pressure is for tires
You have the capacity to take a step back and see the world with innovators’ eyes.
You have the power to say, “Wait a minute, why so much stress about that?” and relax about it (which, ironically is a state that is proven by various studies to promote the ideation process).
And then you can apply your creativity to things that matter to you. Lots of people have reinvented the way they work. This is innovation. Some have thought back on their work-life balance. This is innovation too.
Reconnect with your reasons of doing it
What is often implied when we push for innovation is that everyone is motivated to see their company innovate. I think this is the manager’s or CEO’s dream. Not the employees' dream.
People care about their career, personal life, and the meaning they get from their job.
And admitting it will help you refresh your creative energy.
This will in turn (ironically again) help you to be more excited for your company’s project and initiatives as you will be in the right mindset to explore, suggest, try, and have ideas.
So, I say:
“Do it for yourself first.”
- Try it for a month and see what happens.
- For a month, dare to dream about different personal and family projects you might have buried.
- Think about your work-life balance and how you could improve it.
- Improve little things in your life, just for fun, with no pressure of the outcome.
- At work, go the extra mile on things you care about.
And without knowing it, you’ll feel the same way you do when you stick to anything for a month: It will feel more natural. With no need to push, you attract fun and creative projects.
So, here are a couple of sentences for you to break the pattern consciously:
- If I approach my work differently for once, I could ___ .
- If [insert a personal goal] actually happens, it would bring me and my family ___ .
- If I surprise my partner tomorrow, it will bring him / her ___ .
- Or else, just write down five reasons to use this amazing and free tool to reach your goals and do things a better way (yes, I’m talking about your creative skills).
Reconnect with the fun of doing it
This is the first thing I talk about in my keynotes for companies: Go at it like a little kid.
It is fun.
Creativity and being innovative is all about exploring, questioning, trying, laughing about how hard we fell and trying again. And there is no risk because you get to do this in imaginary worlds.
Like kids playing with Legos
Yes, you’ll need to assess risks at some point of the process (in the convergence phase when we talk about budget, feasibility, and so on), but not at the beginning.
It will sometimes be hard to find solutions to your stupid ideas. This is a good sign!
But hard or complex is not impossible. And you can find solutions to each obstacle while having fun.
The attitude you need toward this whole innovation thing you already possess. We already figured it out when we were kids. By suggesting lots of ideas (bad, good, improbable), we surprise ourselves and others.
Your creative force, the one you always had behind the layers of skepticism, rejection, and negative thoughts, is about being full of possibilities.
Actually think of a moment in your early days when you felt like the world was full of possibilities. Wasn’t it a great feeling?
I bet a whole lot different. You would be more open minded, more curious. This would help you to create better connections, new ideas, and perspective on the same old situations.
Decide now: What industries, methods interest you? What discipline, sport, or country do you want to try or travel to?
Name three things you always wanted to check out but never did (like trying baseball, doing a mud day, learning to make a cappuccino). It is fun to be curious, to get a glimpse of what is outside the box. And what you acquire is the faculty to start sentences with the words, “What if … “, or “why not.”
This is agility, this is being innovative, and this is your dormant creative force that is only asking to be refreshed.