“I don’t have the time to be innovative when there is already so much to do”
“I don’t have the resources or the money to dedicate to anything that isn’t right in front of me”
And the one I hear most often…
“I just don’t know how to be innovative. It’s never really been my strength and seems so hard.”
I’ve heard these phrases time and time again. In fact, I’ve even been guilty of saying them myself. But the reality is that time, money and ability are not your biggest barriers to innovation.
Your biggest barrier to innovation is your energy. That’s right, it’s you.
Lack of resources is definitely not your biggest barrier to innovation. If that were the case, only billion-dollar companies would innovate. We know that’s not true. In fact, sometimes the lack of resources can lead to the most innovative ideas because you have to. We also know it’s not time. Because, if that were true, only those with oodles of extra time would be innovative. Some of the busiest people I know are the most innovative. It’s why they are so busy getting the right stuff done. And, what we’ve discovered, with the tens of thousands of people that have taken our proprietary Innovation Quotient Edge Assessment, is that everyone innovates. But how we innovate is unique to each of us. So, I know that you’re capable of it.
Here’s the secret sauce:
Managing your energy level is the key to being more innovative.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. Who has the time to be innovative when you have a to-do list longer than your arm, seven meetings already scheduled on your calendar, and one big presentation due before 5:45 PM today?
So you think, let me just get through my to-do list and then I’ll get to the innovative thinking. But by the time you do that – who has the energy? It’s hard to be more innovative at work when you are mentally and physically tapped out. At that point all you want is a bottle of wine and a couch. Your brain and your body are exhausted. It’s hard to be innovative when your whole being feels totally spent. Totally get it. I’ve been there. You are not alone. In fact every time I keynote, doesn’t matter if the group comes from a Fortune 500 company or a startup, the people who come up to me after share how they often feel too exhausted to innovate. That sucks and frankly it’s keeping you from living your full potential. Your full potential begins with you tapping the power of your innovative mind. So, let’s dig in to how to do that so you can be more innovative at work and in life.
I want to share with you two quick tips to avoid the ‘too exhausted to innovate’ feeling.
1. Shift your mindset.
Everything starts here. Part of the reason you fall into the exhaustion trap is because you wait to innovate. Innovation is a mindset that you should bring to your entire day, not wait to engage in. The same is true for your teams. If you are feeling as if the people around you are also not bringing your their best game, it could be because they also feel too exhausted to innovate. Shift your mindset, and the mindset of your teams, and watch as the innovation begins to fly.
When you see innovation as a tool to help you tackle every challenge and opportunity, you’ll begin to work smart, not hard. In many ways innovation is a never-ending well spring inside of us. We just have to access it. When we fully access our abilities, that’s when we perform at our peak and bring those game-changing ideas to our work and life.
2. You get what you start with.
Even with the right mindset we all need a little help. Instead of ending your day with innovation, start with it. A three-minute innovation booster in the morning and you’ll find that the rest of your day becomes more innovative. You are greasing the innovation wheels. Once you grease them, they’ll move on their own. If you want to be more innovative at work you must shift your mindset and begin each day with innovation. I promise from there the ideas will roll in.
Even something as simple as doodling, asking three inciting questions, journaling, or mocking up ideas will flip your entire day. Every day I begin by taking 5-minutes to grease the innovation wheels with an exercise that gets me out of the weeds of my to-do list and into the wide open space for new ideas. Interestingly, I find on the days I do that I have no problem being innovative at work regardless of the challenge or opportunity I’m facing. On the days where I skip it because I think my to-do list is too long, I struggle. Those days seem to feel more like head banging against a wall.
Remember, taking 3 to 5 minutes to do an innovation exercise is one of the most productive things you can do. I know it may feel like procrastinating or frankly like you aren’t working but in reality the opposite is true. When you begin your day with just one easy innovation exercise you will find that the rest of your day is far more productive.
I’ll never forget a client of mine that said she was always afraid to take a few minutes to doodle her thoughts because she feared her boss walking by and thinking she wasn’t working. However, on the days she doodled she found that she was able to see challenges differently and find opportunities in the obstacles. Everything seemed to go smoother for her.
One of the favorites of other LaunchStreeters in our On Demand program is asking one “What If” question in the morning. That sparks different thinking patterns all day.
My point here is don’t be afraid to look like you are “wasting time” for a few minutes. Those so-called wasted moments translate into massive productivity in your work. Not only are you actually able to get more done, you are able to get it done better.
Innovation exhaustion can be easily overcome by managing your energy with these simple innovation tactics and exercises.
Side effects may include uncontrollable aha moments, hallucinating, opportunities everywhere and leaving your desk at a decent hour.
If you are like me and learn visually, here’s a quick video highlighting how to get over the innovation exhaustion trap.
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Tamara Ghandour of GoToLaunchStreet is a TED speaker and entrepreneur. From building and running multimillion dollar businesses, advising Fortune 500 like Disney, Procter and Gamble and RICOH on fostering innovative ideas and people. Tamara’s life is about breaking through the status quo for game-changing results, and that’s what her keynotes, online programs and assessments can do for you.