I started at CIL almost a year ago and developing an innovation mindset was not something I even considered. At the time, I thought innovation was a buzzword. A chef was innovative, a real estate company was using innovation to sell more homes. See? Buzzword. However, when the place you work lives and breathes something [even when that’s innovation], you stop and pay attention.
I am by no means an innovation expert, but I’ve spent the better part of a year following people around who use and practice it every day. I’ve grown to acknowledge innovation as a mindset and also as a tool. My past self would be laughing at my current self – however, using innovation in your daily life can be interesting and surprisingly helpful.
We talk about innovation a lot over here at CIL. Most of our blog posts center around it and we have an entire PODCAST on how others view innovation. Let me be the first to tell you, everyone thinks about the word ‘innovation’ a little bit differently. The word means something different to everyone. However, I believe there are certain ways to think, breathe, work and live in an innovative way. I’m going to start digging into it below:
The death of innovation is boredom. However, a catalyst is curiosity. Continually asking questions, learning more and finding new answers to old problems is what innovation is all about. Personally, curiosity is what drives me every day. It’s what gets me up in the morning because I’m annoyed that I don’t already know everything.
Starting this role here at CIL and ultimately ending up in marketing wasn’t an accident. It’s because I was curious and willing to change the way we looked at marketing as a whole. I asked questions, I tried new things and I was curious about what the outcome would be.
Curious people aren’t satisfied with how things are being done and are willing to go to great lengths to find a new answer. Maybe this sounds simple, but I believe this is innovation at its core.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase that you never want to be the smartest person in the room. You want to surround yourself with people that know more than you so you can learn. Obviously, this ties into my last point. If you’re curious [like me!] – you need people you can ask all your questions to. I know Google is a good resource, but bouncing ideas off people and garnering insight into other minds is ALWAYS a good thing.
If you’re in leadership, make sure your people feel empowered to ask questions and make decisions. Cultivate innovation by pushing them to find new answers, take things in a different direction or completely blow up the process.
When you’re in the thick of your work – it’s hard to make innovation happen. New ideas are often squandered because you’re working to put out fires or meet deadlines. Take a break, take a day, take two hours to sit and think about how things can be done better. What processes aren’t working? Where can changes be made that will grow your organization? Do employees need to be shifted around into positions that would better fit their skills?
I struggle with this often but find when I set aside time to just think, I come away with a better plan and often, a clearer mind. For example: when thinking about marketing for 2020 I took two days to really wrap my head around what we were going to do. I laid out our content calendar, I looked at a slew of analytics and I was honest with myself about things that weren’t working. This practice allowed me to better understand where we’d been so I could set where we were going.
Get Comfortable with Failure
This seems totally counterintuitive to everything we’ve discussed concerning cultivating an innovation mindset. However, failure is an integral part of innovation. When you’re willing to fail, you’re willing to take a chance. Trying to make an idea a reality can either drive you forward or you can bite the dust. Both success and failure allow us to learn a great deal and I’d wager that failure helps us more.
I struggle with failure as I imagine many of you do. It feels illogical because of what we’re all trying to achieve. However, it can be a catalyst to launch you or your organization to the next level. I’ve had to shift my mindset to allow for failure to be a possibility. For me, this means not picking the easiest path. Pick the uncertain path. You have to work harder and be a touch creative – but a lot of amazing people failed hard before they were great (JK Rowling, anyone?)
Opening yourself up to new ideas, new people and new processes can foster a ton of change and maturity. If you’re notoriously open-minded, people will feel comfortable coming to you with new ideas or to ask for change.
However, being open-minded doesn’t mean saying yes to everything. It means considering things deeply and identifying the opportunities that offer the most promise of growth or innovation. Even if you ultimately say no, people will know that their ideas were acknowledged and respected.
How can you practice being open in your workplace?
Ask for feedback.
Ask tons of questions.
Consider ideas before making a decision.
Acknowledge employees who come with ideas (a core value at CIL is Throw Bad Ideas at the Wall.)
Don’t confuse being open with being complacent – allow employees to come to you with their thoughts, but be willing to make the hard decision.
Is this really all it takes?
Can I guarantee this will help you build an innovation mindset? No, I can’t. But these are tried and true tactics that have worked for me. Some of these are inherent to my personality and some I have to really work at [like getting comfortable in failure]. These may seem like no-brainers – but the combination of all of these together is what truly makes you innovative. I would love to know what other tactics you’ve used to foster growth and innovation personally or at work.
Comment or write to me and let me know what traits you believe make innovation happen!