Rethinking innovation

By Natalie Turner, Author, Yes You Can Innovate

Do you consider yourself innovative? This question usually elicits a negative response for two reasons. First, people tend to wrongly equate innovation with only technologies, research and development, and new products. Second, innovation is misperceived as the domain of a select creative few.

Innovation is far more than this and reframing it in our own mind can help us to see where we can contribute to innovation in our lives and the work that we do every day.

 I would like to suggest six strategies to help us think a little wider and deeper about innovation, and to see ourselves a little differently:

One. Think about how you define innovation. Start a conversation at work as to what it means to be innovative in the things you do. If innovation is the creation of value out of ideas that are new to you, what could this look like in your division or department?

Two. Think of innovation as a continuum. On one end, you may have your radical, step-changing innovations that redefine industries, such as iTunes and Apple products; on the other end, you have what we might consider incremental innovations. Sticking with the Apple analogy, this could include improved camera phones with better resolution. Think of what you have done in the past or are working on at present. Where would you place it on the continuum? Both are important.

Three. Broaden innovation beyond the realms of products and research and development. Think how it occurs within services, processes, business models and ways of working. The way IKEA offers cheap designer do-it-yourself furniture is a good example.

Four. Broaden the concept of value. Financial value is often top of mind and, of course, is often a critical objective. But what about other forms of value such as strategic, environmental, social and even personal? Think about what value creation means in your own work context, what you can contribute and the different types of value that you can add. I like to see innovation as an activity where great sources of satisfaction can be derived.

Five. Think about your own personality and skills as well as what you like and are good at. You may, or may not, consider yourself an idea generator or one of the most creative thinkers, but what about your ability to build teams, manage projects or just get things done?

Successful innovation requires a raft of different skills. Creativity is just one of them and, even then, there are a variety of forms of creative thinking that we all have in different ways. How can your skills contribute to creating value out of new ideas?

Six. Think about innovation beyond the realm and confines of the business world. This could include opening your mind to new ways of thinking about your profession and responsibilities.

Consider this an opportunity to take a fresh look at yourself and the value you could create both in your personal and work life. Question what innovation means to you and think through what opportunities you have to innovate. A subtle shift in mindset is required, but no matter in small or big ways, we can all contribute towards innovation.


This article was written by Natalie Turner and originally published in Today Online on July 2nd, 2014