For many businesses, innovation is among the most desired qualities across the organization and down to the individual level. Process innovation can greatly streamline operations, reducing costs and ramping up timelines for productivity. It can also unlock new market opportunities or superior versions of a product; something as simple as a new method for heating metal during the coiling process can allow an Ohio manufacturer to produce high-grade compression springs capable of carrying stronger loads, alongside the more lightweight, mass-produced offerings. We all know that innovation is important, but not everyone manages to cultivate this as a personal trait – these practices will help you get started in that regard.
Develop real understanding of situations
You may associate innovation or creativity with things like being smart or constantly coming up with ideas. Yet ideation can be aimless, and knowledge is idle without application. In order to actually prove useful, even great ideas must be firmly grounded in reality. Don’t come up with solutions in search of a problem; become well-acquainted with grassroots-level processes in your organization, and pay attention to everyday challenges you encounter in life. This awareness will serve as the framework of a strategy that lets you align ideas with needs, eliminating the impractical from consideration so that you can focus on a few inputs of greater quality and potential. You can then set aside the necessary time to investigate and conduct research on feasibility and similar scenarios and related attempts to solve these problems.
Few names are as widely associated with creativity and invention as that of Thomas Edison; in fact, the image of having a ‘eureka!’ moment is universally represented by a light bulb switching on in someone’s head. Dig a little deeper into Edison’s background, however, and you’ll find a rather less romantic – but far more practical – truth to his success as an inventor: Edison’s various innovations drew upon the work of a team of thousands of engineers, assistants, and researchers. Any individual operator can greatly amplify their ability to innovate by collaborating with others; you can draw up a shortlist of your best ideas to solve a given problem, and have someone else – a friend or colleague – do the same, then compare results. Not only will there be unique areas where you don’t overlap, but you can draw more inferences and give each other feedback to improve. Innovation requires many small contributions from various sources; let your ideas circulate, use others as a sounding board, and provide the same assistance in return.
Know and embrace failure
Human beings are naturally inclined to avoid risk; for this reason, innovation, which is inherently a form of risk-taking, can be such a difficult quality to cultivate. By embracing the fact that the future is impossible to predict and chasing innovation can take you down a path with various twists and turns, you’ll be prepared to handle the risks of failure. Even companies and people widely considered to be successful have worked on endeavors that ultimately turned out to be failures; this is part of the process, and their cultures and attitudes reflect it. Don’t be too emotionally invested in a pet project or idea; balance persistence with the ability to recognize that something isn’t working and should be discontinued in order to focus on more promising projects.
Becoming more innovative as an individual is definitely possible, but don’t fall into the trap of focusing only on ideas – apply these steps deliberately to gradually develop the process of innovating as an individual quality.