Why innovation is mind over money
Innovation is about creativity and openness to change. We all know that, but what about the perception that to make innovation work, a healthy combination of both creativity and budget are required?
We often find that those who admit they do not do enough in the way of innovation usually cite time and money as the biggest barriers. No time to innovate and no surplus budget to apply to it. Here’s the thing. We all work (with few exceptions) in fast-paced, stress-inducing industries and, quite frankly, none of us have time.
Of course some organisations have more budget to spare than others but are these issues genuine reasons to shun a comprehensive innovation management strategy? No, not really. That’s because we believe innovation is far more about mindset than it is about money. In this post, we explain how you can change your attitude towards innovation and embark on a strategy with minimal time or cost implications. You can thank us later!
You have probably heard the saying, ‘curiosity killed the cat’; a warning that unnecessary experimentation or investigation could get you in trouble. What you may not know is that the full expression goes ‘curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back’. Now that’s more like it: innovation is all about curiosity and experimentation. You may encounter a little difficulty along the way, but ultimately the resulting outcome will make it worth it.
What we are trying to say in a rather roundabout way is that to be truly innovative you should never stop asking questions. Being inquisitive costs nothing but it can help you to question your most deeply held assumptions. This is key if you want to step out of the boundaries resulting from clinging onto the status quo for dear life. Always ask why you are doing something and when you aren’t, ask why not.
This is not about putting a negative spin on anything your company creates or does (that would not only be draining but seriously irritating), but rather it is about asking whether things can be done better. Just because your company have been doing something for years does not mean it is right. It may have been once upon a time, but times change. Ask questions to disrupt the status quo and throw in a curveball; it may just pay off and if you don’t do something new and groundbreaking, you can be sure that someone else will.
If innovation is a state of mind then you need to first look to your people. Some workplace environments are (probably unconsciously) designed to suffocate creativity, with too many structures and a tunnel vision to the future. On the contrary, you should be influencing creativity, not stifling it.
Often innovation is suppressed because workers do not see themselves as creative and they therefore halt their own progress before they have even started. It is the job of senior management teams to encourage staff to view themselves differently. ‘I think therefore I am’ is particularly apt here – when employees see themselves as capable of creativity, they are more likely to be creative. It is simple logic but one that can take you and your employees far, with no cost implications. Just a bit of psychological magic.
Furthermore, it is important not to become trapped within your own industry bubble. Broaden your mind and look outside of your industry for solutions to problems and new ideas. Just because the products are different does not mean that the systems and processes cannot be adapted for your own needs. It is a perfect way of adopting new and original approaches and solutions to long-standing problems.
The concept that innovation is mind over money applies to the whole business, so you need to engage your employees with this mentality. One effective way of doing this is to organise breakout sessions each week. People often have their most creative ideas when they are relaxed, so structure these sessions accordingly. Perhaps you could schedule it for a Friday afternoon over a drink. No, this is not an excuse to have a jolly, but rather a way of harbouring the creativity and innovation that is naturally born out of a relaxed and free-flowing mindset.
In order to guide the process and ensure it does not end up being a chat about weekend plans, add structure by posing a question or problem at the start of the session. This will help open up the discussion and keep it relevant to the business goals and objectives. It will also help your employees align their own job with wider strategic decisions, as it will enable them to judge what to prioritise. Plus, these sessions can be a fantastic way of spurring collaboration, which we all know is a key ingredient to successful innovation.
Be positive about change
Another way of adapting your mindset for the purpose of innovation is to take a glass half full approach. Senior executives are often hardwired to take the defensive line, focusing on maintaining the market position, rather than boosting it. Failing to see outside of this strategy is limiting. Instead, adopt an offensive approach, in which changes in the market are perceived as opportunities.
“Optimism is an essential ingredient for innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure over staying in a safe place?” – Robert Noyce, Entrepreneur
This extends to being proactive as well as reactive. Following the crowd will only get you so far; you need to be one step ahead and this will only happen if you push forward when no one else is. This isn’t about who has the biggest budget, it is about adapting your mindset to see opportunity where others see risk. It’s not to say that risk and threats should be disregarded; naturally they must be considered and calculated, but this is about not immediately retreating to the defensive position. Instead, ask questions and assess the opportunity. In short, positive thinking drives positive change.
- Never be afraid to ask questions, especially when it comes to preconceptions and assumptions; asking ‘why’ will open up discussions and spark innovation.
- Broaden your way of thinking and pass this attitude to your staff by providing the appropriate encouragement and by running breakout sessions to encourage creativity.
- With the right state of mind and the necessary toolkit, plus a healthy dose of positivity, innovation will flourish within and across your organisation.