Without motivation, permanent change cannot occur. Without change, nothing new can be innovated.
I believe innovation arises from ideas. Ideas are revealed when one applies a process of being creative. Creativity in one’s job is shaped by an individual’s engagement and commitment to one’s work, which is directly influenced by one’s personal values and the company’s organizational values.
That being said, in my 25+ years of experience, I have concluded that the single biggest deterrent, and at the same time the single biggest enabler of organizational innovation, is the propensity for risk-taking. Creativity is the principal process leading to ideas, while risk-taking is the process designed to apply ideas that generate results. Creativity is something that naturally springs from people, while risk-taking is something dictated by the organizational culture in which they work. In other words, creativity can be enabled by the employee, while risk-taking can be enabled by the employer. One without the other cannot easily create innovation; certainly nothing strategic.
Innovation or change itself derives from motivation. Motivation is the product of passion. Love and fear are two sides of the same coin, as both give rise to passion, although love can be seen as a positive force for passion, and fear a negative force. Great innovation leaders figured out long ago that innovation arises from one’s (or the team’s) deep passion for something much bigger than themselves. These leaders learned how to create “drive” as a positive force for themselves, as well as for their teams. We call this design thinking. When an organization taps into the collective pool of design thinking, they unleash intrapreneurship for all.
Practicing intrapreneurs using design thinking are the best sources for innovation. The first step we strongly recommend is to learn to see “with a new lens,” which is easier said than done. Here are 11 practical ideas for developing a new lens and finding innovation:
1. Think when you are not thinking. For example, try going on a run or a walk, cooking at home, cleaning the house, doing yard work or asking yourself questions to stimulate curiosity and creativity.
a. Who is the actor or agent?
b. What is the action required?
c. When is the right time or timing?
d. Where is the location, scene or source?
e. Why is this needed?
f. How? By what agency or method?
2. Listen to classical music. Recent studies reveal a molecular basis for the “Mozart Effect,” but not other music. Mozart can relieve stress, improve communication and increase efficiency. Creativity scores soar when listening to Mozart.
3. Read periodicals you would not typically read. For example, read a scientific magazine if you are more interested in business, or choose books outside your typical genre to help generate diverse thinking, which has proven to be a critical competency in the creative process.
4. Attend a conference or a meeting outside your field. This helps connect to other “dots” in your life. Being away from your daily routine is a sure bet to stimulate ideas for creative solutions to your existing challenges.
5. Surround yourself with creative thinkers. Many organizations do not hire creative people, instead hiring for skill and “fit for task.” Chances are there are more “alike” people in your area than “different.” Look outside your area and normal routine and find some creative thinkers who are comfortable looking at things through a different lens, are not afraid to challenge assumptions, or who naturally love to explore “newness” in everything. Find people who love to doodle, draw or who are exceptional storytellers.
6. Immerse yourself in a real problem. Ask questions and investigate possible outcomes. Try the state/restate technique. Individually or in a small team, write the current challenge in an open-ended-question format. Then restate the question eight different ways. It’s been shown that 100 percent of participants experience a much greater clarity of the original “problem statement” than before. Once the problem is clear and concise, dive into solutions, first looking at all ideas, and then begin narrowing them down.
7. Keep an idea journal. An idea journal is accomplished when we take the time to commit our ideas to paper or electronic notepad. Throughout the course of any given day, countless ideas come and go. Write or record them, even though many of them may appear unrealistic at the time. Most of us simply discard our ideas as passing thoughts. The problem with this is what we previously believed to be unachievable can change drastically as our minds are expanded with each new success that comes our way.
8. Take a course to learn a new language or some other skill outside your expertise. This builds confidence and can provide an edge over others in the global multicultural working environment.
9. Be curious and experiment. In today’s no-nonsense business environment, those who stand out will rise to the top faster. Those who demonstrate curiosity, tenacity and willingness to experiment will become visible. Leaders value people who demonstrate a curiosity for the many facets of the business and a passion for its growth and success. This is the intrapreneur at work. The greater the degree of organizational support, the more design thinking flows and the more innovation is fostered in the organization.
10. Articulate your idea and seek feedback. Real innovative ideas are those that solve an unmet need in the market. It is not about having a new idea, but about getting it out there. Testing an idea with your co-workers is one thing, but testing it with your customers or those who are not current customers yields the best insights on the applicability, giving you more precise feedback about the need for and impact of your idea. For multiple ideas, vary your test network by approaching different people. Seek feedback from collaborators and creatives as well.
11. Create a greenhouse for your ideas. The four primary negative forces designed to kill your ideas immediately are time, money, people around you and yourself. For each, identify how to reduce the negative influence on the fresh ideas that desperately need “greenhousing,” meaning some attention, protection, nurturing and growing. Greenhousing means keeping the ideas safe, then growing them naturally by being more curious, researching the elements and finding possibilities for impact. Don’t force them to sprout too early. In other words, don’t tell others and don’t discard the ideas, but give them timely attention in the greenhouse until they have some viability. iBi
Jatin Desai is an international strategist, consultant, and CEO and founder
of The DeSai Group based in Connecticut. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or follow him on Twitter, @jhdesai.