21 Sep The Innovation We Can All Do
By Blake Stevens, Director of People & Culture
We all have the opportunity and the privilege to innovate. Innovators always get the credit for all the great ideas that have come out.
But innovation is not a position or a privilege given to a select few. Because we are always changing and adapting to our surroundings, we all have the opportunity to innovate. That said, we tend to overthink innovation and find ourselves wanting to have the best idea at any given moment to show we can make an impact and, perhaps more importantly, that we belong.
Innovation for a few or for all?
We hear a lot about the thought leaders before our time: George Washington Carver and the peanut, Steve Jobs revolutionizing the way we interact with technology, Howard Schultz changing the way we connect over coffee. This group of highly successful superstars may make us think we’re not qualified to innovate, especially if we’re not already genius scientists or wildly successful entrepreneurs.
Not all innovators dramatically change the world, and more importantly, you don’t have to take drastic measures to benefit the world around you.
There’s no shame in starting small. In fact, there’s a lot of wisdom in tackling reasonable issues, whereas attempting to solve all the world’s problems with one solution is a sure way to get in over your head. But we all have at least one thing in common: We are all human beings. We have the ability to think on our own, make decisions and impact the very things and processes we come in contact with every day. Like Carver, Jobs and Schultz, we can all ask “what if”, “what else” and “why not”.
Great, innovative ideas aren’t always used. Here’s the fun thing: We all see problems differently, and we have the opportunity to speak up and provide solutions to challenges we see. More specifically, a problem for you might not impact the person next to you. I like to take notes on paper with the same pen that I have written with for the past two years. When someone shows me they’ve figured out a great way to take notes using their mobile device, I’m really not impacted because I have already figured out the best way to take notes for me.
Because we all see problems differently, the fact that I don’t care about a new innovative way to take notes doesn’t negate the fact that note taking was a real problem for some people, and the solution that they came up with was great. That solution just wasn’t for me. So don’t get discouraged when your idea is not accepted by all.
You must speak up.
The most important thing to note is that we have to take the first step and speak up. The way we do that can be learned, but we have to start small and work up to the moment we will shine. We all have something to say, but, all too often, we do not take the time to really make the effort to speak up. Instead we find ourselves thinking a laundry list of excuses that go something like this:
- Someone else will come up with the solutions.
- I will leave the innovating for the next person.
- I am not smart enough to solve that problem.
- I think I know the answer, but I don’t think anyone will listen to me.
- That is not what I went to school for.
- I need to take a class and get an MBA to be able to make that decision.
In these situations, we jump into the victim cycle too quickly and circumvent our deeply human ability to creatively assess any situation and seek answers. We have a voice. To truly innovate, we must use it.
When innovating, consider the following:
- You don’t have to have all the answers at once.
- Your first idea might not be the best idea.
- Just because your idea is great doesn’t mean it’s the one that will be used.
- Small tweaks can make the biggest impact.
- You might have an innovative way to adjust someone’s plan. That is true collaborative innovation, and it is important.
- Ask more questions than you make statements.
- It is a myth that innovators are always game changers.
- You have a voice for a reason.
When a work, family or social group is formed, there are more emotions and expectations that come into play.Keeping in mind that the group’s purpose is the end result. We all have a place in the group, so try to understand your role. Visionaries are going to dream more, processors are going to ask more questions and operators are going to want to get to the work. All are important to the innovation and problem-solving of the group.
When contributing to the group, it is important to know that each person has an important part to play, but they might not get the recognition expected. Be clear in the group member roles, and celebrate when the group objective is met.
We can all contribute to innovation when we must ask questions and aspire to be better than we are today.