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How Can I Be Innovative, I’m No Genius!

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The task of innovation is often left to those with the term in their job title or those in the C-suite, but the most rewarding form of innovation is found when everyone in an organisation is involved in the innovation process.

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To be innovative; the art of coming up with transformational new ideas (not just new product designs) that bring value, is the ultimate goal for forward thinking businesses. Yet it is incredibly hard to embed this way of working within organisations and for employees to feel up to the task. There are a whole host of reasons why this is the case but let’s look at three points on what it takes for those in business to be more innovative.

Find your inner genius

When we think of labelling people as geniuses, the likes of innovators such as Jonathan Ives from Apple or the Wright Brothers who invented and flew the world’s first successful planes, sit comfortably with us. To consider ourselves as geniuses is not something most of us would even allow to cross our minds (you probably know a few who would).

“A genius looks at something that others are stuck on and gets the world unstuck.” Seth Godin

In his introduction to the popular book Linchpin, Seth Godin confronts us with the awkward thought that we are all in fact, geniuses (but not all the time). According to Godin, the reason that most of us struggle to accept this is that our genius, over time, has been drummed out by our family, schooling, bosses, or government. Society frowns on us if we make mistakes or even worse, fail. We learn by failing as toddlers yet this is the very thing we should embrace again if we truly want to be innovative.

If you have ever solved a problem that your colleagues, family or friends couldn’t, then in that moment you are a genius. The challenge is to get used to the fact that every day you have everything you need to perhaps do something amazing, even genius!

Breaking down barriers

“Truly great innovations can be as simple as making small changes to the tasks done every day (by those on the shop-floor), rather than the big ideas (from the C-suite) which transform everything.” Stuart Eames, Operations Improvement Manager, Waitrose

Anyone that considers himself or herself a leader within their organisation should be great at listening to all their employees. Instead of listening to their highly paid consultants, CEOs would benefit greatly from listening regularly to those on the shop-floor or those from unfamiliar cultures.

Innovation is nurtured from insights learnt from those in other disciplines and fluid open boundaries. For companies that want to become more efficient and have a more productive workforce, it is important for organisations to break down any silos that exist, be it managerial or departmental. Create an environment where people, whatever their skill-set, level or sector, come together to share ideas and thoughts on how they think their business could improve.

Crazy ideas can work

The idea of making an iron fish to cook with to solve the problem of iron deficiently would have sounded a little off the wall initially, yet the Lucky Iron Fish have gone on to do just that. With 50% of Cambodians now experiencing changed lives as a result.

Some think that great ideas are simply in short supply, when the real issue in fact, is that people are not comfortable sharing their ideas. Fear holds us back. Fear that our idea will be rubbished by others, fear of what our boss or colleagues might say and fear that our idea might fail. The truth is outlandish ideas might be the very thing your organisation needs to solve a problem. Unfortunately, many businesses with rigid and standardised processes fail to nurture a safe environment where these ideas can be shared.

It is empowering for you as an individual to recognise that you are indeed full of great ideas. To know that your ideas will be acknowledged builds confidence over time. If you think your ‘crazy’ ideas are worth it, find a way to bring a cultural change in the way ideas are fostered and used to move business forward or simply seek out organisations where your ideas will be listened to and considered.

To create an innovative business culture is not easy and it certainly won’t happen overnight. Yet the opportunity to nurture brilliance from a collaborative team that are excited about contributing to the success of your business and subsequently valued for doing so, is one that should be grasped quickly if you want to stay ahead of your competitors.

In the words of Mr Godin “You have brilliance in you, your contribution is valuable, and the art you create is precious. Only you can do it, and you must.

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