Innovation is everyone’s business. Accelerate the potential of your career with these tips on building your creative potential
Innovation isn’t just about Disruption with a capital ‘D’. It’s not just about the next big product out of Silicon Valley. It is about making improvements to our business models, supply chains, ways of serving customers and manufacturing processes.
Not only that, but innovation is also a mode of thinking, a way of being, and a journey we can all go on in our day to day work and life to improve our career prospects, productivity and even our wellbeing.
In this article, I will share some of the practical steps you can take to accelerate the potential of innovative thinking to transform your career and enhance your effectiveness at work.
These tips don’t just apply when you’re working on an obviously innovative project, but to every challenge you face. Go forth and innovate!
Why innovate at all?
Innovation is about supporting growth and looking for new opportunities to meet the needs, desires and expectation of customers, employees or other stakeholders. Innovation enables people to harness their own and their teams’ creative potential to solve real-world problems. If harnessed correctly it can improve employee engagement, customer satisfaction and bottom line revenue.
Not in A Creative Job? You Need To Be An Innovator Too!
Creativity is not the end game. Creativity is an enabler to help you to overcome a challenge or meet a need from your end user. It is a tool to help you move forward when you might be stuck. Every role will face problems that need to be solved. Every job involves processes that can be improved. Every career requires innovation to progress.
How to Be More Innovative
Be expansive in your thinking
We all make assumptions about our world and the problems we encounter. These assumptions can help us make lightning quick decisions that enable us to take action.
However, when you are faced with a problem or challenge, there is always the potential to do things better. This is where Innovation comes in.
To be expansive in your thinking, you need to suspend your judgement and forget your assumptions.
Say to yourself: how else could this work?
Then, when ideas comes to mind, ignore the voice that says, ‘this is a crazy idea and it won’t work’. Instead, ask yourself “under what circumstances could this be possible?”.
Most importantly, just because it hasn’t worked first time, don’t dismiss the idea – think like a start-up, find the learning and improve your idea.
Don’t accept the status quo; be a restless provocateur. Be curious to understand how others try and solve problems similar to yours, both within your industry and outside it. Look for stimulus to hope you see your problem from a new angle. You might find the solution somewhere, but more often, you will find principles that you can build on to develop your own innovative ideas to solve your specific problems.
Have some structure
Innovation can get a bad rap because it can seem woolly. Google say, ‘Creativity Loves Constraint’ and they are one of the best examples of an innovative organisation in the world! So, ensure you create a process to follow, map your stakeholders, agree draft timescales and use a methodology such as Design Thinking to help guide you from first observation through to launch.
Build a rough and scrappy prototype and test it with your key stakeholders. Give them a sense of the experience or the product and actively get them to tell you everything that is wrong or doesn’t work. Often, new innovations fail because the pilot only tested if it the idea could be operationalised – not if there was a genuine need or desire from the end user.
Be A Risk Taker
In uncertain times we will encounter so many unknown unknowns – we cannot possibly plan for all the challenges we will face. We will all have to think differently and invent new solutions to problems we don’t yet know about. By Prototyping and Testing with your end user you can mitigate risk.
The Biggest Tip For Innovation
Have Ideas not Thoughts. So often when we are asking for blue sky ideas we end up with non-specific Thoughts. An Idea is succinct, actionable and can be understood quickly by someone who was not in the room when it was created. A Thought is an intention but there is no clear path to next steps. Keep asking yourself and others ‘what’s the idea? What would we actually do? What would our end user experience differently’?
Ask yourself ‘can someone take this idea and do something specific with it?’ if they can, then it’s a good idea that’s ready for testing. If they can’t, go back to it and build it some more.
This will ensure your innovative thinking delivers results, which will enable you to stand out from the crowd and enhance your career prospects.
Catch Mok talk all things innovation in our highly anticipated Career Bootcamp with IBM Sterling Supply Chain. Register here.