10 Simple Things You Can Do to Be More Innovative

Great innovation begins with you. With the basics. With uncommon common sense.

Here are 10 Simple, Everyday Things You Can Do to Be More Innovative

1. Have fun! Tell a stupid joke. Be (appropriately) sarcastic. Ignore proper protocol. There’s a scientific reason facilitators are taught to use ice-breaker exercises and most innovation exercises involve some kind of game. Humor and fun readies our hearts and minds to think differently.

2. Ditch more meetings. Basic facts… 1. You need more time just to think and be creative, instead of doing so much busy work. 2. About the only way most of us can find that time is to start getting out of some of those stupid meetings we’re “supposed to” attend. (Tip: Emailed invitations: Always respond “Yes, Tentative.” Then if the agenda isn’t compelling enough, don’t go! “Oops. Sorry. I was double-booked that hour.” But as far as office politics: you gave the appearance of wanting to go.)

3. Ask more questions. Innovation and creativity don’t begin with a pre-determined need. They begin with questions… “Why?” or “Why not?” or “How about?” or “What if?” or “Has anybody ever…?” or “What do you think?” or “What do our customers think?” or “What’s your gut tell you?” or “How would you change it?” 

4. Be the clarifier, the simplifier. Everybody’s thinking outside the box and pivoting and strategic alliancing and, and, and. Resulting in: While everybody’s smiling and nodding, thinking they’re off on some innovative journey, nobody really knows what the hell was just decided! Be the one person in the room who cuts through it all and directly says (or uses this as a guide): “Tell it to me like I’m a sixth grader. What does that mean?” Then repeat what you heard back to be sure it makes sense to all: “So what you’re saying is…”

5. Be the dot connector. If there’s risk involved, nobody wants to be first. Yet there are no truly new ideas. Every innovation has some ancestor — somebody’s tried something very similar to your new idea before. Be the one in the room who reassures everybody and connects the dots between past successes and what your team is about to try: “What we’re trying to do is just like they did, only with this part inserted differently.”

6. Be the taffy-puller. “Tell me more.” Be the person who keeps pulling at good ideas, until they’re great ideas.

7. Be the first follower. Derek Sivers gave a fantastic 3-minute TED talk where he explains that true leaders aren’t necessarily the ones who initiate a new idea… They are the ones with the courage to leave the pack and be the first to follow a new idea.

8. Be a creative hard-ass. Your mantra: “We can do better.” No matter how great something is, push for it to be greater-er.

9. Use the wisdom of the crowd. Nobody is as smart as everybody. Build a rough prototype and get it in the hands of customers or end-users. Let them play with it, break it, tell you what’s wrong with it. You’ll get where you need to go far faster with much greater innovations. (For more, see How to Pilot a Project) 

10. Demand most from yourself. No matter what standards are set by those in charge, set one notch higher for yourself. With one asterisk to that… Know the tipping point where it’s time to let go. Push yourself for your best effort and then be willing to let it go without it being “perfect.”

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