For some, the word “innovation” conjures up feelings of open frontiers, the future, and unbridled possibilities. For others, the word conjures up feelings of dread. Not because they are not interested or excited by innovation, but because of the pressure that comes with an environment that is driven to innovate faster and better. Tremendous pressure and anxiety exists when people turn a creative, open, and fun process into a specific activity. Picture a domineering manager demanding to her staff, “Today we innovate, and we don’t leave this room until we are done!” No, you cannot force yourself or your team to innovate. Innovation is not a task.
Great innovations are birthed first and foremost from an innovative mindset. No matter your current reaction to the word, innovation should be an activity that you eagerly embrace every day. Here are some simple steps you can take to help bring an innovation-oriented mindset to your job:
1. Adopt the right attitude
An innovative mindset is an open, enthusiastic mindset with a can-do attitude. The core attitude of innovation is simple: “Everything is possible. Imagine what is possible here.” Consider what else can happen with this idea. Explore the opportunities. Think about what we can do if we change that idea to this: “Opening your mind and your job to the possibilities is what innovation is all about.”
2. Embrace exploration
One of the most important actions you can take to open yourself up to innovation is being open to exploring the possibilities. A great way to do this is simply asking yourself a question starting with the words “Wouldn’t it be great if…” Try it. Feel as free as a kid in a sandbox or running in an open field, taking in everything around you and playing, trying new thoughts, building on them, and moving onto the next thought. Go where your thoughts and imagination take you.
Imagine yourself in the middle, the center of your imagination, creating these moments, adventures, products, or concepts. Stretch even farther in all directions. Explore what the great inventors, artists, musicians, and authors know as “the creative dream”—the place where thoughts form completely without any interruption from our self-imposed rules or limits.
Richard Paul Evans, the author of The Christmas Box and many other bestselling books, told the Society of Southwestern Authors conference attendees during a keynote speech, “The secret to great storytelling is the same as the secret of creativity or the secret behind all great products and creative works: There is magic, innocence, and wonder somewhere in the process. It’s the same magic, innocence, and wonder that children possess.” After a pause, he added, “In fact, it’s by tapping into that magic, innocence, and wonder of our childhood that we can create great things that will evoke the same feeling in others.”
3. Break down the creative barriers
The innovative mind is playful and open; it does not recognize boundaries or limits. It believes everything is possible and works to connect your thoughts and ideas with everything you’ve ever dreamed or experienced that can help you transform a thought or idea into something new and original.
The more you allow yourself to think, dream, and willingly imagine, the more open you will be to the magic of great ideas; the potential of creating a brand-new product, initiative, or approach; and the wonder of watching how it positively impacts your team, your organization, your customers, and yourself.
The most important step to take is the first one: allowing new thoughts or ideas to form in your mind and then deciding on which you should take action. Make giving yourself time and space to create a weekly and, if possible, daily practice.