The ability to innovate individually, as teams, and as an organization is critical to survival today. To compete, we must continually find and implement new and better ways of serving the customer and staying ahead of the competition. More and more we see individuals, teams, and companies who aren’t innovating replaced by those who are. To grow both margins and market share, we need new ideas that customers are willing to pay for.
Occasional innovation isn’t going to be enough. Innovative thinking needs to become part of how you approach every aspect of your job from solving customer problems to negotiating to coming up with the next game-changing idea. What innovative ideas have you or your team had in the past 2 months? How about in the last 6 months? Individuals, teams, and companies that make innovation part of their culture have a significant advantage over those that don’t.
Innovation is a combination of creative ideas and making those ideas reality. The best ideas are worth nothing if you don’t execute them. The individuals and companies that will be the most successful going forward are those who go beyond the obvious ideas about their products, services, and relationships and execute creative new ideas. The question is, “Will you develop the seven habits below or risk that your competitors will and leave you behind?”
Seven characteristics of leaders in an innovative culture…
- Choose to embrace rather than resist change
Some people are predisposed to resist rather than embrace change. So while change energizes some, it overwhelms others. We are faced with change on a regular basis and the amount of change only increases with innovation. Remember that with every change that comes your way, you are faced with a choice of either resisting it or embracing it. Why waste energy resisting a change you can’t do anything about? Instead, put your energy into embracing it.
- Let go of past negative experiences of innovation
We all have been through attempts at innovation in the past that didn’t go well. Those negative past experiences can be like ghosts that haunt us and become a huge obstacle to trying again. Instead of thinking of new and better ways of doing things, we slip into thinking about how we tried it before and it didn’t work. Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Maybe the idea was poorly executed. Maybe the process was cumbersome. Whatever the reason, this time can be different if you let go of the past experiences and start again.
- Create an environment that stimulates creativity
Some environments are more conducive to creativity than others. The environment you choose will be determined by many factors. Is it just you or a creative team of people? Is it important to go off-site or can you stay on campus? How long do you have? While these things certainly impact the environment you choose, there are some characteristics that you’ll want to include. When possible, create an environment that is comfortable, has enough space to move around, is visually appealing, and allows for short breaks from the task at hand.
- Assemble a diverse team
While there will certainly be creative ideas generated by individuals, some of your biggest challenges will require team collaboration. The best team, when it comes to creativity, is a diverse team. We are all shaped by our experiences – good and bad. The more diversity in your team members’ backgrounds and experiences, the more variety there will be in the ideas generated. Diverse input causes everyone on the team to think differently and that is exactly what we need for innovation.
- Build and nurture your network
The more people talk with others, especially others with different perspectives, the more creative they become. We naturally self-segregate, choosing to spend time with people with similar viewpoints to ours. How often do you have have informal conversations with people outside of your immediate team or company? Spend time with people who aren’t like you and encourage your team to do the same. People who share your background and experiences are easy to be with, but they tend to shut down your creativity.
- Execute to make your idea a reality
Why would you invest the time coming up with creative ideas and then do nothing with them? You can’t have innovation without effective execution. Regardless of how good your idea is, you will run into obstacles. Create a plan, determine whose help you need and commit to persisting in spite of the challenges you’ll face.
- Develop a tolerance for failure
Failure is a natural part of innovation. Some of the best ideas don’t work for one reason or another. Failure can prevent people from trying again. Don’t let that happen to you. Learn what you can from the failure and try again. Even Apple, widely recognized as the world’s most innovative company, has a list of failures that led to its current successes.
Innovation is critical to success in today’s business climate. Those that make innovation a priority will leave behind individuals and companies that continue with a “business as usual” approach. We all have a choice to make when it comes to innovation. What will yours be?
Take the first steps to building a culture of innovation for your team by contacting Dr. Heather Johnson today.
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