My son, Justin has always made his own path. He knows what he wants and he enthusiastically goes after it, often forging a new path in the process. Justin was one of two high school students from the U.S. selected to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Morocco. When he sent this picture to me, my initial thought was, “How are we going to get the camel smell out of that new suit?” That thought was quickly eclipsed by what a great metaphor the picture is for the importance of “riding your own kind of horse”.
Following convention is the leading cause of death of growth and innovation. Most of us find comfort in doing things the way they’ve always been done. We aren’t looking for comfort. The best ideas don’t come from doing things the way they’ve always been done. They emerge from a willingness to look at things from a different perspective and the courage to act on new ideas.
Four things to keep in mind as you ride down the path of innovation:
1. Seek diversity to find inspiration
Expose yourself to new people, experiences and ideas. Prime yourself to listen by going in with a goal of learning three new things or gaining three new insights. I recently met with someone who works in the medical device industry. The fact that we have very different experiences and responsibilities meant I walked away learning far more than three things. Our discussion gave me a different perspective on a project I am working on and added a great deal of value I couldn’t have obtained by talking with someone in my industry.
Meeting and engaging new people requires self-awareness and a willingness to stretch beyond your comfort zone. If you go in with an open mind and open ears, you’ll come away with plenty of inspiration.
2. Learn from the naysayers
There will be no shortage of people lining up to tell you that your idea will never work. There are many reasons for their negativity, and they may have nothing to do with the idea’s merits. But the naysayers provide feedback that can improve your idea and expedite its implementation. Naysayers can reveal problems you didn’t anticipate and potential solutions. You may discover competing interests from different stakeholders that could prevent buy-in. If nothing else, you will better understand your audience when it’s time to influence.
The emotional competencies of empathy, resilience and managing your emotional responses significantly enhance your ability to keep challenging conversations constructive.
3. Find your fan club
When the time comes to act on a new idea, wade through the naysayers to find positive, optimistic people who will offer encouragement and support. With new ideas come new challenges. It will be easier to overcome them if you feel the support and positive energy from people around you who believe in you and your idea. Building your fan base begins with your own optimism and excitement. People are attracted to positive energy. Learning to generate positive energy and emotions – especially when you face setbacks – will enable you to build and keep the key people on board.
4. Leverage your fear
Whether it is the fear of uncertainty, the fear of rejection, or of course, the fear of failure, fear is a powerful emotion and drives action in one way or another. If you aren’t careful, fear can drive you to abandon your ideas before they get off the ground. The key is to understand that fear, like all emotions, provides important information for you. It may be an indication that there is a problem to solve or it may provide information that can help you move forward if you know how to identify it and adapt accordingly.
For example, if the fear of an uncertain outcome threatens to paralyze you, focus on what you are certain of. It may be that you are certain you have the right team in place, a solid plan, and confidence in your idea. That initial fear of uncertainty can serve as a catalyst that ultimately increases your confidence and moves you forward.
Justin’s willingness to find new ways to do things has led to incredible experiences at a young age. I can only imagine what he’ll experience and accomplish going forward with this mindset. I challenge you to push yourself beyond the comfort of the familiar and find new ways of looking at what you’ve always done. Seek inspiration from unlikely sources, don’t let negative people get in your way, find positive people to encourage and support your new ideas, and leverage fear as a catalyst for success.
If you’d like to learn more about how increasing your emotional intelligence can help you build competencies in awareness and self-management that enable you to ride your own kind of horse, join us July 9th for Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence.