Power up your innovation mindset
What is an innovation mindset?
Why is an innovation mindset important to you and your business, and how can you develop and strengthen yours?
These are the themes that I cover in this article.
One of the reasons I wanted to write about innovation mindset is because it’s at the heart of all innovation. When you think about it, it’s at root of all the ideas that we have, how we feel about those ideas, how we work with them, and how we put our ideas into action.
What is innovation?
The world needs all the thought leaders and positive change makers we can get to move things forward for the greater good. An effective innovation mindset is what makes it all happen.
What is mindset?
Our mindset is how we think, the attitudes and disposition that we have towards situations. Mindset means the beliefs we have, through which we interpret the world around us.
What is an innovation mindset?
Having an innovation mindset means having the disposition for openness to potential opportunity and the capability to follow through and access that opportunity successfully through problem-solving thought processes, emotional intelligence and tenacity.
The importance of thinking differently
Steve Jobs famously said that creativity is just connecting things.
We need creativity before we can innovate, because innovation is turning creativity into purposeful action, joining up the dots.
Innovative thinkers are really good at finding distinctive connections between things that other people might have missed or not even been aware of.
And of course, to join the dots, we need to have useful dots to join in the first place!
So, one of the first things that you can do in terms of powering up your own innovation mindset is to intentionally create good dots!
How do you develop your innovation mindset?
To develop an innovation mindset, think differently, expose yourself to new experiences and practice making unusual connections between things, because that’s how great ideas happen.
We’ve got absolutely trillions of neurons inside our brains working all the time, and an idea happens when some of those neurons connect, when different pieces of insight come together to form a new creative thought.
These new ideas are the very root of all innovation. Work on becoming great at creating dots, individually and as a team.
To create those dots, feed your mind with great stimulus that might create all sorts of unusual, interesting and useful ideas for your business innovation. Here are sixteen tips to help you to develop your innovation mindset.
Sixteen tips for developing your innovation mindset
1. Think big, be ambitious
Incremental innovation is useful but expand your innovation mindset to think bigger and be more ambitious, too. Create big, ambitious, meaningful business goals, then innovate to achieve them. Don’t get stuck just playing small. Get out there and shoot for more impactful, purposeful innovation, too.
2. Grow your curiosity
Curiosity is a trait demonstrated by successful innovators. An enquiring mind learns more, digs deeper, listens more effectively, which can lead to greater originality of thought.
3. Fail forward to inform your innovation mindset
Innovation means doing new things in new ways. It involves navigating unchartered territory, so the route to success is not always clear or straightforward. Expected to encounter ‘the fog of uncertainty’ that’s an intrinsic part of the innovation process. To successfully progress from uncertainty to clarity it’s necessary to become comfortable with discomfort.
Develop an innovation mindset that considers every step to be a calculated experiment that will provide feedback and help you to ‘fail forward,’ deliberately trying out new things to get the insights that will help you to succeed.
Reframe failure as learning, intelligent action and investment in getting to the final solution.
4. Look inside
Look inside yourself and reflect on your own experiences and inside your own organization and your team and challenge what might be done differently, and how.
Observe, sense and listen. Intentionally tune in to what’s going on inside your own environment.
5. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
Put yourself in the customer shoes, and physically experience, step-by-step, what the customers experience when they do business with you. Don’t just map it out it hypothetically on a piece of paper or software, get out there and experience it for yourself. I guarantee you will see things from your customers’ point of view that you hadn’t spotted before. You’ll be able to see innovation and competitive differentiation opportunities that will create a better experience, product or service for your customer.
6. Look at the periphery
Stay tuned into what’s going on at the periphery of your industry. Explore the edges, spaces that nobody else is looking into to see what’s going on there.
7. Explore the intersection
Find areas where your business sector has the potential to intersect with others. Great innovation often happens when two trends, approaches, solutions overlap and intersect. For examples, think fusion food; the smart phone that brings the desktop, phone, gaming console, camera and more into a single device; fast food chains, which combine food manufacturing processes with a restaurant concept. If you’re interested in learning more about this innovation mindset technique, The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures by Frans Johansson is a good book to read.
8. Review your supply chain
Look up and down the supply chain. Whatever industry you’re in, it’s interesting to see how your suppliers what suppliers are doing and tap into their innovation expertise. There might be ways of pulling some of that innovation upstream and using it in a different context, in your own business environment.
9. Explore new sectors
Explore innovation beyond your own sector, because if you only ever look to the best in class in your own industry, then all you’ll achieve is replication of what already exists. For example, if you are in logistics, you could look at banking; if you’re in banking, you could look at manufacturing, and find some of the innovations that are happening there. Then think of how you could transfer them into your industry and into your sector and be inspired by that.
10. Be prepared to collaborate
Working with great collaboration partners enables you to learn from each other and stretch your innovation thinking. There is some fantastic work going on in universities and in colleges through collaboration. You can also collaborate in different industry groups, and within your own sector too in non-competitive space.
11. Take time to reflect
So, in order to join the dots, we’ve got to create the dots for an innovation mindset. And to create the dots it means thinking differently and looking outwards all the time, and really spotting those opportunities that others might not see quite as readily.
12. Use trend forecast resources to fuel your innovation mindset
Use some of the freely available trend forecast resources, such as these 2022 Global Consumer Trend Reports from Mintel, Deloitte, Qualtrics. These help you to look outwards, think about how the world is changing and what that means for you, your products, services, business, and team.
13. Ask great questions
Great questions lead to great thinking, which leads to great ideas. Examples of great questions that will help to develop your innovation mindset are:
What’s likely to happen?
How might we…?
Play around with different scenarios and possibilities.
14. Practice divergent thinking
With practice, you can get better at divergent thinking, which means making creative connections. People practice convergent, logical thinking by doing Sudoku, wordsearches and crosswords, to practice and strengthen their logical thinking and problem solving, but you can also strengthen your innovation mindset using random stimulus techniques. Think about how many different, unusual uses you can come up with for a random item, for example.
15. Use your innovation mindset to make the right choices
Developing your innovative mindset isn’t just about creativity, it’s also about making the right choices, thinking commercially, exercising judgement, and using analysis and data to evaluate opportunities. Be flexible and able to move from divergent thinking to convergent, thinking which is then taking the best of your ideas, finessing them, working out which ones have got the most promise and the most possibility, analyzing how to progress them, making well-judged choices throughout your innovation journey.
This is whole brain thinking. The innovation mindset isn’t just creative. It takes advantage of the whole brain and its different modes.
16. Be tenacious and courageous
The path of innovation is never completely straightforward, you will need to problem solve as you go, and create clarity from uncertainty. Taking an idea from concept to reality requires courage and tenacity. Build grit and the ability to persevere.
Being a successful innovator starts with having a positive innovation mindset
An innovative mindset does mean hanging in there, keeping faith with the idea and continually trying different things, testing fast, failing fast, learning fast, and going again.
Co-creation underpins a lot of successful innovation. To succeed, innovators need strong emotional intelligence, not just to influence and communicate, but also to ask the right questions, to learn, collaborate and to surround themselves with a really good team.
I’ve studied innovators, as you know, and I’ve done lots of research. I also have extensive hands-on experience of working with innovators on some broad-ranging innovation projects. Innovation needs courage as well as creativity: the courage to make a difference, courage to fail, courage to give things a go; to be customer focused, as well as commercial. This innovation mindset can be developed with intention, self-awareness, and practice.
Innovation needs to be in our DNA, not just an exceptional activity that we just do from time to time, or on a special occasion. Innovation isn’t an extra, above and beyond the day job, it needs to be the default for how we do business. The world is changing so quickly, and has so many different needs, there’s an infinite opportunity to spot and act on ideas that will be a difference.
If you’d like to know any more about innovation mindset, please do get in touch.
My purpose is to help you innovate and help you get to where you want to with you, your team and your organization.
I hope you’ve found this article useful, thank you for taking the time to read it.