We all want to innovate better. Part of innovation is deciding to innovate. Wikipedia says “The goal of innovation is positive change”. This should be our goal. Can we decide to innovate? Absolutely. Knowing what you want to innovate around and defining the goal can be a great start. So start by defining success. Once you have your goal, it is time to get creative.
Innovation can be improved with process and innovation can be improved with these ideas:
- Innovate during your most creative times. Most of us have daily cycles. Times when we are more alert and creative can be tracked. By learning when yours are, you can plan to innovate during those times. When I tracked my energy, I found I was energetic and creative early in the morning. When I discovered the, I stopped doing email during that time and set it aside for my most creative problems.
- Plant the seed. One way to get the subconscious mond working on your challenges and on the innovation breakthroughs you want is to deliberately seed the mind. The way I do this is to spend 10 minutes brainstorming on an idea. Then I simply leave it and don’t think about it. I often find the answer comes to me while I am doing something completely unrelated. I find this works well with my early morning creative period. I plant the seed the night before and when I wake up and start innovating, the ideas flow.
- Network with people. Action creates reaction. And people have an inborn desire to help. One way to solve problems is to simple start asking your network for assistance. I like to do this by email. Sending 25 emails is a great way to start the innovation process and get new ideas. I often find an outside fresh view can shed a whole new light on the challenge.
- Read (or stimulate your mind in some other way). I find libraries and book stores and reading books in general is a great way to stimulate ideas. This particularly works if I have planted the seed as discussed above.
- Walk, cycle or exercise. I find physical exercise can stimulate ideas. So one trick I sometimes use is to carry a notebook or Blackberry to capture those ideas. Although I find if the “burning desire” for a creative solution is there, I do not forget the ideas I generate during a workout.
- Ask customers. Clearly most value creation ideas benefit the customers and who knows better than them what they want? I like doing surveys so I can plant a few ideas in my customers’ minds to stimulate their thinking and at the same time, I get feedback. I like surveys because I can get feedback from many customers. I also like speaking to customers 1:1. Nothing drives home a need than by speaking directly to a customer.
- Use brainstorming tools. I like doing splatter diagrams or mind maps. There are lots of online tools and books on brainstorming. Many of them simply present unrelated items to stimulate thoughts.
- Break it down. Although the goal is often huge and therefore almost unapproachable, my experience is that many great innovations are often a collection of innovations on a many parts of a big challenge. Small parts are less daunting and often less risky to implement.
Innovation can be deliberate. Use some of these tricks to improve your creativity.
Jim Estill is a venture capitalist, author and business consultant. He sits on the board of RIM. He is a blogger at www.jimestill.com or follow him on twitter @jimestill.