Innovation is for Everyone

In today’s markets, companies have to innovate to survive. Unfortunately, many operate under the mistaken assumption that innovation can only be done by a few naturally talented individuals.


We all have the power and ability to innovative. Some of us may have temporarily misplaced that ability, or let it atrophy due to lack of exercise. But inside each and every human being lies the ability to see things in new and different ways, which is the essence of innovation.

The problem is that most of us are running so fast that we have stripped away the time to pause and ponder. The moments to wander, explore, connect, and trigger our brain to do it differently have been almost completely eliminated from our lives. Think about how filled your current day is. If you aren’t engaged actively with a customer, supplier or employee, you’re checking your PDA and responding to the hundreds of emails in your inbox. You might even be doing both at the same time.

We’ve created a belief structure that it is more valuable to check our PDA constantly, even though much of the email we receive is irrelevant to what we need to be focusing on. We behave as if the most important things to focus on and do are located on that device, in meetings or on email. We have come to believe that there is less value in sitting quietly every now and then to ponder future possibilities, get clear on winning or explore alternatives.

Learning how to think differently requires time. Your brain needs a trigger and then some space to think. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much time. In fact, taking only 10 seconds or so every now and then to pause and wonder will enable you to think differently.

Keep in mind that the more success you achieve, the less likely you are to pause and consider thinking differently. This is why so many people keep doing what they have always done, even when they see it is no longer working or everything around them has changed.

To recapture your innovative abilities, learn to ask “what if…?” questions. For example, what if:

  • My competitor had this choice? What would they do?

  • My employees could change one thing? What would it be?

  • I looked at the same data from a different perspective or angle? What would I see if I were older, younger, a customer, a supplier?

  • My assumptions are wrong? What else is possible?

  • I step back and look at the big picture?

  • I am wrong and there is another way?”

The most powerful way to trigger your brain is simply to ask it a question because the brain instinctively wants to answer questions immediately. Make your questions ones that open you to possibilities, to new ways of looking at the same data, to new interpretations of the same old thing. To do this, you must pause from the running and doing we have often decided has more value.

Your mind is a very playful and interesting place. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you visit it more often!

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