How To Jump-Start Your Innovation: 8 Ways To Be More Innovative9 January, 2020 / Articles
Popular wisdom suggests innovation is a characteristic some people have and some people—well—don’t. In addition, innovation is often seen as a capability which encompasses the skill of idea generation and not much more. Both are wrong. The good news is you can build your ability to innovate and enhance it in others. Innovation is actually a broad set of skills and a comprehensive process—and lots of us can be successful innovators.
First, know creativity, which is fuel for innovation, is potentially lacking. According to the Adobe State of Create Study, 70% believe creativity makes them better at work and creativity is correlated with 13% higher earnings. But only 41% believe they are creative and only 31% believe they are living up to their creative potential. And this gap is likely impacting more than just the workplace. The World Economic Forum makes a case for the critical nature of innovation in advancing the world economy. Creativity and innovation are important for companies, but also for the economy as a whole—and yet there is more opportunity for people to tap into their creative best.
Developing Innovation Ability
Each of us can be more innovative because contrary to popular opinion, it can be learned, encouraged and even incented. A recent University of California, San Diego study demonstrated monetary incentives helped overcome psychological barriers to innovation and led to a more diverse group of people to offer innovative ideas. Support and encouragement also made a positive difference, especially for those who had lower performance coming into the study. People who might not have thought of themselves as innovative, contributed as much as those who were from traditionally innovative areas of expertise.
But innovation is more than just the development of novel ideas, and this is encouraging for all of those who want to be more innovative. Researchers at the University of Economics, Prague and Aston University, United Kingdom found a range of capabilities contribute to innovation. In addition to classic idea generation, idea search was also critical as well as processes to support innovation such as communication, involvement of others and execution. Beyond the process to support innovation, organizations and leaders create the conditions for great ideas to take root, develop and be implemented. The bottom line? Innovation involves various skills, and you can build and leverage your own unique contributions to the innovative process.
Be confident. The first step in innovating is to be confident about your abilities. Don’t let your job function or naysayers convince you you’re not innovative. Everyone can contribute, especially given how many different paths there are toward successful innovation.
Find great material. A key element of innovation is its raw material. In fact, there are some who say there is nothing new. The poet and philosopher Audre Lorde said, “There are no new ideas, only new ways of making them felt.” Exploring the landscape of a topic or spanning the environment for diverse perspectives create the fodder for innovative ideas. If this is a talent of yours, leverage it as an important part of the creative process.
Involve others. No innovation can survive today without a group of supporters. Another talent associated with innovation is the ability to involve others in its development—bringing together diverse expertise and perspectives. The skills to assemble a team, tap into people’s talents and coordinate efforts are great contributions to the innovative process.
Marshall support. Beyond the development process, innovations also require support from a broader group. Whether it’s a startup requiring investors, or an established company that provides the resources for the idea to flourish, the skills of communicating the idea and persuading others to support it are also important parts of the innovative process.
Learning, reflecting and prototyping. Every great innovation requires prototyping. The process to put innovation into practice and observe the outcomes, learn, reflect and improve takes specialized skills—all part of successful innovation.
Implement, execute and make it happen. Of course, any new idea is only valuable if you have the ability to take it to the finish line. Implementing is also part of the innovative process—determination, perseverance and execution. After all, until ideas are put into action and taken to market, they offer limited value. True innovation is determined by the marketplace and whether users will value the solution you’re offering.
Continuously improve. Today’s best innovations are never finished. They benefit from reviews, revisions and releases. This too is a specialized skill—the ability to be objective enough to find elements about the innovation that aren’t yet perfected and see opportunities for improvement.
Create the conditions. In addition to the skills which are endemic to the innovative process, there are also key contributions which create the conditions for innovation. Leaders who inspire a sense of purpose and value appropriate risk-taking, organizations that reward discovery and inventive actions, and cultures that allow people to bring their best, most diverse talents toward the whole all cultivate an innovative environment.
Even if you haven’t considered yourself particularly innovative, you can build your innovative muscle—and those muscles are diverse. From searching for new ideas to generating them, or from involving others and persuading them to being objective and continuously improving, various skills contribute to innovation. Even as a leader, adding to an organization that embraces innovative behaviors is important to the process. Leverage your own innovative abilities—they are likely broader and more important than you may have thought.