You can learn to be more innovative!
That’s right. You can learn to think differently. You can also learn to act more like an innovator.
Your ability to be innovative is not only a function of your mind. It is also a function of your behaviors!
If you change your behaviors you change your creative impact. And who doesn’t want to be more creative?
Innovators Act Differently
Authors Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton M. Christensen (The Innovator’s DNA) studied great innovators. Their research revealed that innovators think and act differently than most people.
Innovators are questioners. They question the status quo. They look for the unique and extraordinary. They link ideas that are not normally connected. They tinker and play with things and test new ideas.
Innovators consistently question, observe, network and experiment more than others. Their behaviors trigger associational thinking, where they excel at linking ideas that aren’t obviously related. Those associations produce original thoughts, plans and designs.
All of us have problems and opportunities sitting in front of us right now. Many of us don’t have a solution for those challenges.
We might need a new process. We might need a new service or product. Or we might be looking for a new model.
Thinking and acting as an innovator can help you leverage that opportunity and may just propel you to the top. To climb the ladder, you need strong discovery skills.
Staying curious keeps you engaged and your organization alive. You have to find a way to reclaim some of that youthful curiosity. It’s time to recover that young childish inquisitiveness about everything around you. It’s time to embrace awe as you observe with marvel and wonder.
Why Most Don’t Think Differently
Most organization leadership is biased. They have status quo bias: the tendency to prefer an existing state of affairs to alternative ones.
Most accept the status quo. They embrace, “It it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” without ever questioning if “it” is really broke. It’s easier to do what they’ve always done.
They work hard to efficiently deliver the next thing that should be done according to their business model. They work inside the box.
They shine at converting the vision into tasks to achieve the goal. They excel at analyzing, planning, implementing and completing. They are very good at execution.
They are not good at discovery skills.
Innovation Starts With You
Ultimately, innovation starts with you.
Creativity skills are not just genetic characteristics passed down through generations. In fact, they can be developed and refined. Innovators can be made!
To be an innovator today, you have to want to change the status quo. You have to intentionally take calculated risks. And you have to have the courage to change.
Innovators actively engage in discovery skills and build discovery habits. They are constantly wondering, “What’s next?” And they believe it is their job to generate innovative new ideas.
Why do organizations need both implementers and innovators? How can you foster an atmosphere of innovation at your organization?
Maddie Grant says
So I have been thinking about this post and I imagine you’ve got a lot of readers with nodding heads as they read along. Which I was doing too. But something’s bothering me. What’s bothering me is that I think most people don’t think of themselves as non-innovators. I mean maybe many don’t think of themselves as innovators either, but I think no-one specifically goes into, say, a meeting, and thinks “I’m going to be the status quo guy today”. But many of us are the status quo guy (or girl) for other reasons – eg we want more data before we change something. Or we’re afraid of failure. Or we don’t want to waste money, time or other resources. Or we don’t like the person who has the innovative idea. Or whatever.
And I speak from experience – I would actually call myself a big rabble rouser, change agent, etc etc – but I’ve been in plenty of meetings or conversations where I thought “that idea is lame”. Or “That idea is nowhere near enough”. Or “that guy is an arse so I’m going to ignore what he says”. Or “that won’t work because…” I’m just as guilty of all of that as the next person.
So what I’m wondering out loud is, do we need to change the vocabulary about innovation? Do we need to switch it so it’s not about being innovative versus not being innovative, but instead it’s about working out loud, so objections (whatever they are) can be voiced and we move forward anyway? What do you think?
Jeff Hurt says
Excellent point. I’m not so sure we need to change the vocabulary as much as the culture. So often, innovation is what jump-starts an organization. In its infancy, the organization embraces innovation and allowing people to object out loud without having a fear of something negative happening to them. As the organization grows, it has to focus on execution and innovation takes a back seat. The culture then shifts to one of “don’t rock the boat,” instead of finding fresh ways to do things. I think we need both mindsets…one of execution and one of innovation. We need more leaders to create safe spaces where innovators can thrive. Perhaps we need Innovation Think Tank departments just like R&D.
What do some of you other readers think about Maddie’s question?
Tahira Endean says
I really like the idea of innovation think tanks. We are always tasked with “think out of the box” which led me to start an “Idea Box” that lives on my desk and where anything new or interesting that comes along gets added to the box to be thought about, stretched, played with and possibly applied to an event one day. It is easy to think all of the things Maddie says, and would agree we all do it to some extent (as always appreciate your candor) – and agree we need to remember that we never know what will spark a great idea and that it is critical to do non-judgemental generative brainstorming when thinking about your event/service/product before moving on to analytical brainstorming where you can then edit your ideas as they start to come out. I would challenge everyone to find a way to create a safe environment for innovation to begin percolating – you never know where it might lead and if we believe that all of us are smarter than any of us then creating these safe spaces could add so much to any organization. Jeff as always, thanks for making us think!
Donna Kastner says
Thanks for another great post + thought-provoking comments.
I’m that rabble rousing innovator. It’s a natural tendency that’s been honed thru years of practice. That said, if you had a room full of people like me, we’d struggle with execution.
Jeff, the concept of innovators + implementers is spot on. Maybe the Innovation Think Tank runs in cycles, with different specialists involved at different points. In early phases, gather innovators to create master list. Ideas need safe place to germinate before people voice objections. Then, exit the innovators and bring on the implementers to rank, develop, execute… Final phase might be both implementers AND innovators studying results and tweaking to perfect.
Jeff Hurt says
Thanks for adding to the conversation. I like your comments about applying two different types of brainstorming: non-judgmental generative brainstorming and analytical brainstorming. We so often just jump into judging other people’s ideas that we lose the full affect of generative brainstorming!
I can definitely see you as the rabble rousing innovator for sure! Organizations are good at cultivating implementers and executioners. Now they need to get good at cultivating innovators. Thanks for reading and commenting always!