How to be an Innovative Thinker

The only thing constant is change. In today’s fast-paced world, it is essential to be one step ahead of the competition to remain relevant and in the game.  According to McKinsey, 80% of executives think their current business models are at risk to be disrupted in the near future.  How do you overcome disruption? Innovation. However, it is not that easy. A survey from PA consulting group found that two-thirds of organizations said that innovation is crucial to survival, yet only a third say they are innovating successfully. Which translates to many companies understand that innovation is important but they are still struggling to innovate. Here is how you can help your organization succeed in innovation.

  1. Let go of the ego. To be innovative, you need to let go of your need to be right and instead be open to new ideas and approaches. If your ego is not in check, you risk missing solutions and enhancements that could make your idea even more successful. In addition, when ego is too high you can potentially miss necessary considerations that you need to take into account now to avoid setbacks in the future. Overcome ego by practicing seeing things from an opposite or different point of view. Get yourself out of your own head to see the big picture.
  2. Be curious. Try to let go of judgment and be open to other approaches or ideas. Ask open-ended questions to gather information and avoid placing immediate judgment about whether something will or will not work. When you are curious not only are you opening yourself up to learning more, but it also allows others to feel more comfortable to share ideas.
  3. Step out of your comfort zone. Comfort should scare you and it is the quickest way to irrelevancy. Find opportunities in your day to break out of your typical routine and comfort zone. When you take risks and step away you can see the big picture more clearly and will be better able to find unique solutions as you are not living in what was done in the past.
  4. Actively listen. In a brainstorming session or conversation practice active listening. Listen for what is said and what is not being said. Connect the dots and ask open-ended questions to get a better understanding of the situation and points of view. Active listening allows you to hear new ideas and solutions that may be missed when you are waiting to respond or not asking questions. Active listening is best when you can do it in combination with letting go of ego and practicing being curious.
  5. Embrace diversity. Innovation works best when there are multiple points of view. Diversity in viewpoints can uncover potential challenges and new approaches that may not have been noticed if everyone shared the same point of view. If you have a like-minded team, try reaching out to someone with a dissenting point of view to help uncover any potential gaps or obstacles.
  6. Practice seeing things from different perspectives. Ask yourself, “who else has solved this challenge?” The answer could be another organization in your industry or an organization outside of your industry. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself how they would solve this problem. When you look beyond your organization for solutions you can generate new ideas, solve your problems faster, and gain new insights, which combined can propel your success.