Updated: Aug 21, 2019
One of today’s top buzzwords is innovation. Everybody wants it. Few know how to harness it. Some say that innovation-on-demand is just a fantasy, something born of wishful thinking in polished boardrooms as top executives figure-out how to motivate their Millennial workforce.
Others say innovation is a skill, not a talent. They say it can be honed to a fine point and wielded like a weapon. Yet even the models of corporate innovation, such as Apple, have their tepid days. Embracing the concept of innovation-on-demand is no guarantee of producing it. The desire alone is not always enough to get the result.
So let’s talk about that. How can you as a leader cultivate innovation, as a matter of habit? Innovation isn’t just about creativity. It’s taking something that already exists and making it better through new ideas, methods or products. It’s very root means “new” – nova. Nova also refers to the monumental explosion of a star, releasing tremendous energy. Innovation can be a lot like that, particularly as new technologies and ideas enter our modern culture.
As a leader, whether you are an author or a speaker, how can you capture this cataclysmic power of lightning in a bottle? Is there a way to reliably inspire yourself and others to create disruptive systems at will? What is the key to innovating on demand? Nothing exists without first having the idea of it.
Teasing Innovation Into Being
One thing we know for certain is that everything we know is in a state of flux. The only constant is change. Harnessing that change and putting it to work on our behalf is the most potent key to success. Deciding just how things will change is your golden ticket to having things go your way.
If you want to encourage innovation, it can’t be forced. It has to be teased out of its shell. This means setting up an environment where there is freedom to make mistakes, to think differently, to follow new ideology for the sake of seeing where it leads. It implies risk taking, relaxation, self-acceptance and stream of consciousness. Fundamentally it encourages tapping into the inner child, taking time to think, or even an adrenaline-packed offsite event in the wilderness.
This is one reason so many start-up environments feature fun workplaces like beanbag chairs, stand-up desks, in-house chefs for all employees and well-stocked bars. Fridays are often free from formality, even including bans on Friday meetings.
Take a second…can you imagine this type of work environment at a Big 3 automotive manufacturer? I didn’t think so either.
These features may seem trivial or even cushy to an outsider. But in the heat of white-hot creation, such amenities become necessities. They allow the sub-conscious mind to problem solve, while the inner child comes out to play. The imagination is fueled by relaxation.
This is the territory of what investors call Unicorns…those illusive start-up companies who create a billion dollar valuation.
5-Steps For Innovating On Demand
Inspiration on demand means continually asking “What if…?” This single phrase spawns the cycle of creativity from birth to launch. What if a personal music device could be used as a phone? What if a car could drive itself? What if that same car could fly…and drive itself?
Would you be surprised to learn that Airbus is currently working on commercializing self-driving air taxis?
One hundred years ago, these questions would have been laughable. Today they are realities, innovations born of daring imaginations. These ideas were once someone’s sci-fi novels. Magic happens when innovation is teased into being.
With that in mind, here are 5-steps for innovation-on-demand in your business.
- DEFINITION: Define the problem you wish you solve with your innovative idea. This is the issue that needs to be fixed with your creative solution.
- IDENTIFICATION: Identify the people who are having this problem. This is your primary marketplace – your avatar. What do they look like? What is their income? How do they spend their time? Is your solution going to present a financial decision for them?
- COMPASSION: Understand the problem from the perspective of your avatar. How can you provide a seamless solution for them at a price-point they will embrace?
- CLARIFICATION: Clarify your solution. What have others done before you? Where have they failed? How have they succeeded? If it’s a product you’re after, now is the time to make up specifications and blueprints. If it’s your book, write your Table of Contents. If it’s a TED talk, generate the discipline of rehearsal to refine your delivery. Work out any kinks in your model before you create a finished product.
- INNOVATION: Now it’s time to get to work! Create your finished product. Market test it. Get feedback from your core demographic, and use it to refine what you’ve created.
It’s true that innovation-on-demand may be a fantasy. It’s also true that fantasy can become reality. All it takes is a map and a compass, plus the gentle breeze of encouragement. You’ll be on your way in no time.
Whose life will you change with your innovative breakthroughs?
Bryan Heathman is the CEO of Made for Success Publishing and the author of #1 Best Seller: Book Marketing Reinvented, a book for authors with his best-selling book launch formula. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.