The idea of innovation is interesting, because every relationship, every team, every company in the world can fall into the trap of just doing what we’ve always done. We get into ruts where we feel like we can’t possible change because this is just the way we’ve done it.
Yet we need to bring fresh eyes to our lives, our work, our missions.
Before I really start, I’d like you to pause and consider these questions. What do you want to do better? Focus more on work? Your team culture? A relationship that needs out of a rut? Look at today’s ideas through that lens.
Big Idea #1: Define innovation
Don’t think about Steve Jobs innovation; don’t put that kind of burden upon yourself. You don’t need to concoct the one idea that revolutionizes things. Innovation at its simplest is finding a better way to do something.
Big Idea #2: See with new eyes
I once watched a football game halftime contest when two men were competing to throw footballs through a target. One contestant was about 6’ 4”. While the announcer talked before the contest began, this guy practiced his throwing motion, which was perfect. He just looked like a quarterback. The other contestant was stocky. As the announcer spoke, he didn’t practice any motion at all—he just looked around the stadium. When the contest began, that guy started chucking balls at the target as quickly as he could. Every person in the stadium would have bet on the tall, athletic contestant. But when the final buzzer sounded, the stocky contestant won—by a landslide. The reality was, this was not a contest about football. This was a contest about volume—about how many balls you could get through that hole in 60 seconds. The guy who saw the contest through different eyes more than doubled the score of the guy who did it the way we’ve always done it. What is waiting for you to see it with new eyes?
Big Idea #3: Assess the needs
Right now, in your life or in your work, there are questions that are dying to be asked. What are your greatest needs? Assess where you are—what’s working, what’s not. When you look at what’s not working, consider what might happen if you did things differently.
Big Idea #4: Focus
We live in a busy, distracted world. To find success, we must limit our targets. What are the one, two, or three targets that you can focus on today?
Big Idea #5: Ask what if?
Create time and space to share ideas. Step back. Assess ideas. Challenge ideas. But ask what if. Dwell in possibility. Then return to work more committed.
Big Idea #6: Take a new route
I love people who intentionally seek new routes. Some people literally take new routes to work. Some people change up their order of morning tasks. Some people cook a new meal or watch a new show. Sometimes we find a better way; sometimes we don’t. Either way, we adjust. This allows the mind to understand that other possibilities exist.
Big Idea #7: Make Like bamboo
Bamboo shoots in all different direction beneath the ground before popping through the surface and growing straight up. I love that image. And I believe the practice of creativity and innovation should be like bamboo. We must allow ideas time and space to wander before the best surface and grow.
Big Idea #8: Stay open
We don’t solve problems overnight in our relationships or in work. It happens with a process of determining next questions and next actions—continually.
Big Idea #9: Just try
Part of practicing creativity and innovation is stepping back and just trying things a different way. Every once in a while, just try. It doesn’t mean it’s the way you have to do it all the time. But the practice of just trying will help you learn things that will add value down the road.
Big Idea #10: Have a bias toward action
I end all of my 10 big idea series with this for a reason. Don’t be busy. Be effective. What are the one, two or three things that you will initiate today to be innovative? Decide. Then go.
Jason Barger is the globally celebrated author of Step Back from the Baggage Claim, ReMember, and the newly released book Thermostat Cultures, as well as a coveted keynote speaker and leadership consultant. More importantly, he’s striving to be an above average father, husband, and friend.
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