If you've ever taken a shower or gone on a walk, then you've had an idea. If you've ever been to a meeting, then you've either shared or heard an idea. And even though you've had plenty of new ideas, do you consider yourself creative? Many people don't - no matter how many new ideas they have each day.
If you think idea generation is directly related to innovation, and you don't think you are very creative, your ability to be innovative will be hampered.
In reality, generating ideas is just one part of the innovation process; recognizing that you need more than ideas is an important step towards being more innovative.
There are six specific things you can do to generate innovations individually or as the leader of a group. These steps will predictably lead you to more than just better ideas but to innovations that - when implemented - will make a difference in your results.
The next time you are facing a challenge, opportunity or problem personally, as part of a team or within an organization you lead, walk through these six steps.
- Agree on the situation. The best place to begin in any problem solving or innovation project is to have a clear understanding and mutual agreement on what the problem, situation or opportunity is. Take the time to get past what might seem obvious. Experience shows that many opportunities are never fully capitalized on because this initial step is never completed.
- Step back for a look. Once you have a clear understanding of the focus of your innovation, step back and gain some perspective. This may be done by asking questions to prompt a new perspective and/or by providing time and space before continuing the innovation process. If possible, pose some perspective changing questions and table the task until later. While you certainly want to discuss your situation from new perspectives, it is also helpful to give people time to soak on these perspectives.
- Take stock of what you've got. Give yourself or the group time to take inventory of what resources, ideas and strengths you already possess that will help you in this innovation exercise. Too often these things aren't considered until much later. By considering and inventorying them now, it will begin to spur ideas and allow your innovations to complement your strengths and resources.
- Affirm that you can. In order to create more ideas, you must believe that you can. Doing the first three steps primes the ideas in your mind, creating a process for spurring ideas and providing proof that you can do it. Make no mistake, your belief that we can be creative is important. Taking the first three steps here will automatically bolster your belief through action.
- Rev up your thinking. This is the traditional step of brainstorming (in other words this is where most people start this process!). When you rev the motor of your car, you put the "pedal to the metal." When you rev up your thinking, we put your mental pedal to the medal. Remove all limitations to your thinking. Use all of the work you have done up until now to get started, but dive into your situation and think of any and all ideas that could possibly help solve your problem or help you capitalize on the situation.
- Think Yes! Once you have a large (even tremendous) list of ideas, review them looking for yeses. Yeses are things that could be implemented or could be part of a solution. Don't simply look for the single, right answer. Think instead in terms of how many of these ideas to which you can say yes. How many of them can become a part of your solution? Once you have your list of yeses, you are ready for the next step.
The next step?
You may be thinking, "but, Kevin, you told me there were six steps." You're right, that is exactly what I said; but really there are seven. The seventh step comes from the first letters of the other six: A START.
The next step is to recognize that all of the other steps are just a start. What comes next is to actually start.
The final key to innovation action is to act
Too often more time is spent on the process of creating ideas and plans with hardly any time spent capitalizing on those ideas quickly enough or at all.
As an individual or a leader don't fall into that trap - always remember the end goal of any innovation is new and improved results. When you follow all of these steps, you improve your chances of creating innovations of all kinds - from small improvements to major breakthroughs.Potential Pointer:
Innovation is about more than ideas. Ideas in and of themselves have no value. Innovation comes from putting the ideas into a plan, and putting that plan into motion. To improve your results and solve problems more effectively, take innovative action.