Today’s dynamic and competitive business environment demands lots of innovation in order to stay ahead of the herd. To create innovation regularly for your organization, you should consider employing the following options:
Challenge your assumptions:
The biggest obstacle to innovation is the unspoken attitudes and beliefs we tend to cling to regarding our customers, markets, and businesses. The more success we achieve based on those assumptions, the more we tend to focus on protecting that status quo versus exploring new ideas and approaches.
To develop the skill of challenging your assumptions, ask yourself:
- What has changed with our customers, our specific markets, our industry as a whole, or even the world at large?
- What assumptions are we continuing to make about our business simply because we “have accepted them as being true”?
- What ideas for new products or services have we come up with recently but didn’t develop because we thought “that will never work”?
Today’s market leaders move forward by shedding old ideas and ways of thinking faster than their competitors. This happens when you challenge your assumptions on a regular basis.
Adjust your perspective:
The human brain tends to hold on to data that proves us correct and blots out anything that contradicts our prevailing point of view. As a result, we often filter, distort, or ignore new information, so that we only see and hear what we want to. Changing your perspective enables your brain to break out of its default thinking patterns and allows you to see the world in new and different ways. This new attitude opens your mind to new possibilities and then focuses your attention on what could be rather than what is or was. This new awakening also enables you to recognize new patterns and connections that others might not see, which is a critical factor in successful innovation. Adjusting your perspective doesn’t mean throwing out all your old ideas, it just means that when opportunity knocks you won’t miss the chance to jump forward ahead of the crowd.
Ask the appropriate questions:
Questions are a powerful tool that can open people up to those new ideas and possibilities. What you do not want to do is to keep focusing on the problem rather than the solution.
- Why hasn’t your team come up with a new product this quarter?
- What are you going to do differently to be more innovative?
These sorts of questions can put people on the defensive and thereby shut down creative thinking. Instead, ask future, active, past tense questions that stimulate people to think and act as if the desired future state is already happening.
- Now that we have successfully innovated, what does the new product look like?
- What problems is this new product or service solving for our customers?
- How is this new product or service bringing new value to the marketplace?
Imagining that the innovation already exists, shifts people’s attention from why they can’t do something to what they can do to achieve it. Once the shift has been accomplished, the brain starts to come up with all sorts of ways to achieve the desired goal.
Question the correct answer:
From an early age we are taught that there is only one right answer to every problem. As a result, we often block out potentially better solutions because we are so sure the one we already have is the correct one. In business, almost all problems have multiple solutions. Some are certainly better, easier, cheaper, or more feasible than others. However, very rarely do we encounter situations where there is only one right answer. To nurture ongoing innovation, forget about finding THE right answer. Instead, focus on identifying as many potential answers as possible. Then choose the best one or even the combination of several that best supports your innovation goal. Never settle for the first good answer, even when it seems like THE right answer. Good often gets in the way of great.
Try not to jump to solutions:
Today’s super-fast business world creates a lot of pressure on us to make quick decisions. So we often tend to go with the first feasible solution rather than looking for better or different ideas. This is not a good approach for ongoing innovation! To encourage your team to look for different and/or better solutions, ask, “What underlying attitudes or beliefs are causing us to see this as the best or only solution?” Then solicit alternative viewpoints from people who see things differently.
- It sounds like we’re all in agreement on the solution here.
- Does anyone see it differently?
What if…questions to look beyond the solution at hand:
- What if our ‘right’ answer is wrong?
- What if there is another way to look at this problem?
- What if we looked at it from the customer’s perspective?
- How would our customers want this problem solved?
Ultimately, innovation basically comes down to changing the way we think and learning to see the world differently. This is definitely no easy task, nonetheless, it can be done. Those who learn to adopt this mindset and make it a habit will definitely reap the rewards that continuous innovation can bring.