Seven Innovation Tips
By Jeffrey Baumgartner
This article was written in early 2015 as innovation advice for the new year. Nevertheless, it remains valid today and probably will be for some time to come.
1. Ignore On-line Advice
Do a Google search on any given business problem, and you will find a wealth of advice. Check the top three or four results and you will find the advice is pretty much the same in each. Visit LinkedIn's homepage and at the top, you will see a collection of LinkedIn blog posts proffering business advice. Again, if you look at posts with similar themes, you will find they offer similar advice.
Ignore it. Devise and try out your own ideas. There's no way you are going to be innovative by following bloggish advice that everyone else with your problem will read and apply. You will only be innovative if you try out unique ideas. Sure, such ideas are riskier, but that's the way innovation is (and it is the main reason why organisations find it hard to innovate).
Note: the one exception to this rule is my advice. You should always follow my advice!
2. Really Ignore On-line Marketing Advice
On any given day that I look at my Twitter feed or visit LinkedIn, I can be sure there will be at least one link to a blog post offering advice on marketing in social media. Most of these posts pretty much emphasise the same tried and tested formula. You've probably seen many such blog posts yourself.
Now, stop and think about it: how can your organisation possibly stand out from the competition if you are using the same marketing techniques as the competition? How will your organisation every be talked about if you fail to do anything that stands out? You won't! Ignore marketing on-line marketing advice and be original!
3. Turn Off Your Electronic Devices for Hours at a Time
The typical knowledge worker is on-line all day, receiving and reading a never-ending stream of emails, messages and calls. When she leaves her desk, her Smartphone ensures she never misses any communication. It also ensures she never has time to stop and think. As a result, she never allows herself the opportunity for an idea to take root in her mind and develop into a vision with innovation potential.
Innovation does not make its way to you in an email. It requires that you develop ideas in your head and then develop them in reality.
Email is the worst culprit, because it comes in non-stop. But it does not need to be this way. You can either turn off your email or, as I do, set it so that does not automatically automatically download mails from the server and announce new messages on your computer screen. Instead, manually check for email only a few times per day. You can either check mails at three or four set times or, as I do, check email only upon completion of other tasks.
Likewise, set your smartphone so that it does not make a sound whenever an email comes in.
Once you do this, you give your mind so much more time to think uninterruptedly and you will find your creativity potential sky-rockets. Really!
4. Play at Work
If you ask highly creative people where their creative ideas come from, you can expect to hear a range of answers, however, you will find a consistent word in all of those answers: "play". Creative people do not generate ideas. They play with ideas. Children are at their most creative when they are at play. Musicians play instruments. Actors perform in plays. You should play too!
You can play with ideas by joking with colleagues, doing role-plays, building ideas with toys (such as building blocks, Lego®, Meccano® and craft materials) or just being silly. Play with ideas about how your organisation might look, or what your primary product will be in 50 years. Define outlandish goals, like taking over the world, and play with ideas about how you might achieve them.
In time, you will find that some of the ideas you develop in play are worth taking very seriously as potential innovations.
5. Collaborate with Weirdoes
We all have a tendency to collaborate with people we know and like. They are more likely to share our way of thinking, confirm our ideas and not make waves. Collaborating with friends is conducive to a cushy working environment and promotes boring thinking. Instead, collaborate with people who are different from you, people who you do not know, people who disagree with you.
They will provoke you and you will provoke them. There will be tension. But out of that tension will come some truly original ideas; ideas that would never have grown had you collaborated with the usual people.
6. Walk More
There is a growing body of evidence that walking is a really, really good thing for you. It is great exercise, it may delay the onslaught of alzheimer's and this year researchers at Stanford University confirmed what I have known for ages: walking boosts creativity. Conversely, too much sitting is harmful to your health -- and let us face it: most knowledge workers sit way too much.
So, get up out of your chair and go for walks. Get at least one 45 minute or longer walk three times per week (I try to get such a walk or bike ride or swim in daily). Get up and walk as much as possible during the day. Got a question for a colleague in the same building? Don't email. Don't call. Get up and walk to her. If you drive to work, park your car some distance from the entrance. Work in a tall building? Use the stairs rather than the life.
Take a short walk during your lunch break.
If you are struggling to solve a problem, and your employer permits it, get up and go for a walk to think about the problem. If you are an employer, encourage your employees to take walks during the day.
Need to have a meeting with a colleague or two? Go for a walk together.
You'll not only have more creative ideas (in terms of quality and quantity), but you will feel better for it.
7. Drive Less
When you are driving, you need to concentrate on driving and this reduces how much you can play with ideas in your head. Moreover, driving is lousy exercise unless you drive a pedal-powered car. So, as much as possible, do not drive! It is good for the planet, it is good for your health and it gives you a chance to think more creatively.
If your journey is under two or three kilometers (one or two miles), walk or ride a bike. If it is less than 10km (six miles), ride a bike. If you are not used to getting such exercise, work up to it. Even 10km on a bike can be a workout if you do not ride regularly. But when you get in the habit of cycling daily, 10km is nothing.
Where possible, take public transport. Trains, especially, seem to be great places for thinking. Indeed, Amtrak (the USA's national railway) has even gone so far as to offer a resident writers programme.
On public transport, even if you are not thinking, you can read which is a great way to increase knowledge and provide inspiration. Avoid checking emails (see point 3 above).
If you can, take public transport, bicycle or walk to work daily. It will improve your health and your creative output. Better still, it's good for our planet!
Stop Reading and Be Creative!
This article is finished. Stop reading. Close your computer and be creative!
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