What makes certain people and certain companies truly innovative? Is it a process? Is it natural ability? Learned behavior and practice, practice, practice?
It’s most likely all of the above. And undoubtedly, as companies like Ideo with design thinking or Google with their Google X Innovation Lab, there is a cultural element that drives people and employees to utilize all of those qualities in an environment that is unequivocally accepting an open to this kind of production.
What’s challenging about the question of how to be truly innovative is to dig deeper to understand where innovation failure occurs. Brilliant people and incredibly sound companies have failed to either foresee innovation needs (Blackberry or Kodak spring to mind) or be able to innovate effectively enough to compete (too many companies to mention in this category…since we can’t all be Amazon or Apple).
So what is that innovation X-Factor? Before anything else, is what actually drives ideas in one’s own mind. On a basic level, there’s what happens from a scientific perspective, which actually has been proven to be much more complex than previous research had claimed. This blog from Scientific American, by Scott Barry Kaufman, of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania highlights a range of new thinking on the brain and creativity.
The biggest takeaway? There’s no such thing as the right-brain being the “creative” or “innovative” part of the brain. Creativity is driven by the dynamic interaction of a person’s brain; developing innovative ideas is a complex process that involves different neural networks and thinking patterns.
In practice this makes sense and it is also empowering. No longer are the innovators simply those who work in a creative field. Nor do you have to be a big-picture, visionary thinker to be innovative.
We see this in our work all the time. One of our clients is a large electronics manufacturing company. They move at speeds that most businesses can hardly comprehend. My client Chris said that essentially, every 9 months technology would need to be improved and revamped simply in order to keep pace.
Imagine reinventing what you thought possible from an output level more than once a year…it is intimidating and exciting all at the same time. No matter what your thoughts are on this, whether you’d be energized or drained by this thought, what is needed without a doubt is a continual mindset of innovation.
Because the need for innovation in this case is so pervasive, its helpful to take it down to an individual level. Each and every employee needs to contribute to the innovation pipeline in their own way. What they’ve done is to underscore how this is possible on an incremental level…and it has major ramifications for anyone who wants to be an innovator.
Its about finding a person’s unique innovation mindset. Here’s what I mean…the way you intake information, process that information and produce an idea is distinctive and special to you. That may be very different from the supposed “innovators” in your organization…but you’ve got a contribution to make to innovation.
Think about your own way of thinking and behavior.
- Analytical: Are you driven by logic, data and information? Your innovation mindset is probably built from researching what’s been done and finding how to improve it.
- Structural: Are you driven by process and details? Your innovation mindset could be driven from trying things and seeing what works. Recording successes and learning from failures.
- Social: Are you driven by relationships and empathy? Your innovation mindset probably begins with the end-user in mind. This is at the heart of design thinking – how can we make this better for a person?
- Conceptual: Are you driven by the big-picture and visioning? Your innovation mindset is likely driven by thinking into the future, connecting dots in new ways and brainstorming ideas.
Notice anything? Every single innovation mindset has the capacity to product big ideas. Every single innovation mindset will make the process more complete. You know who you are…now you have to own it.
Owning it is about behavior, so thinking about the way you are being Expressive, Assertive and Flexible in how you’re communicating innovation.
- Not every person will respond to a gregarious presentation…it make take a one-on-one meeting.
- Not every situation calls for pushing things forward…consensus may carry the day.
- Not every idea should be open to change and nor is every path is defined.
The innovation mindset is innate and we all have the capacity to innovate – but you need to find it in yourself.
Image credit: play.google.com
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Mark E. Miller is the Director of Marketing for Emergenetics International – an organizational development consulting company dedicated to expanding the capabilities of the one thing most valuable to every one of our clients – their people. Follow us on Twitter.