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The Mindset of Innovation

March 1, 2016
George Watts, Laurie Blazek

Mindset of Innovation

Google’s CEO Larry Page proclaims innovation should be targeted at being at least 10 times better than anything on the market. As Page said, “If you’re not doing something crazy, then you’re doing the wrong things”. Innovation scholars range innovation along a continuum from “modest/incremental” at one end to “radical” (or crazy) at the other. The radical mindset clearly works for Google. We surely can admire extraordinary people – big thinkers with big ideas. But we believe that everyone can be more creative if provided the right platform.

Most CEOs at least tacitly agree that their company won’t survive long-term if their organization doesn’t encourage innovation by fostering the right culture. Innovation is a critical underpinning of all high performance knowledge based companies. It is the way they constantly separate from the competition. Still, many companies stifle the spirit of innovation.

I have been employed and have consulted to companies that are (totally) driven by profit. There is no deep sense of purpose or a spiritual vision that inspires. In these “return on capital” driven companies, employees quickly understand that they are entirely expendable. The main “strategy” is cost cutting. These companies overly focus on weaknesses and errors made in performance reviews. The underlying message to employees is to avoid taking chances – color within the lines and don’t make waves. These companies are really only in business to make money for investors. Employee’s opinions are not important. Being innovative isn’t on the radar screen. The company is usually “flipped” as soon as enough money is on the table.

The research on innovative companies is clear. Employees in innovative companies have higher job satisfaction. They are more engaged, feel that their voice is being heard and believe in the company’s values. They know that it is okay to take calculated risks - to try something new and fail. These once radical companies are now the truly great companies that attract great human talent. They make a lot of money but aren’t only profit driven. They are consistently ranked the best companies to work for – because they promote creativity, risk taking and innovation.

If the culture of your organization does not encourage innovation, begin positioning yourself to move to one that does.

We’ve established that the type of organization you work for is critical as it relates creativity and innovation. Even when working in the most favorable environment, many people have difficulty thinking out of the box because their personality isn’t naturally oriented to risk taking. So, how does one develop a more open mindset for innovation?

Read and reflect on the following five questions. Each question helps you think about yourself to become more creative. Focus on what emotionally resonates with you.

  • How can I better utilize my natural strength(s)?
  • What are my job’s biggest stressors; how do I delegate more or out-source what parts of my job that I am not naturally good at?
  • What if I broke down my most significant job behaviors into a set of processes and tried to improve each step in each process?
  • What big vision would I set for myself if I removed all fear?
  • What are the big problems that our customers are having and how can we become more of a strategic business partner to help solve them?

Successful people are innovators. Find the right environment that encourages creativity and innovation. Work toward a more creative mindset. Once you find the right platform and begin to think more creatively, inspiration will fuel your success.

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