Innovation is a popular word and concept for 2011, perhaps even this decade. BUT, one of the most important ingredients for innovation is history. Do you know what has happened in the past so that you are able to create something new and BE innovative or are you unnecessarily repeating the efforts and direction of innovators past?
In other words, if you are compelled to reinvent or innovate the so-called wheel in some new way, then be sure you have studied the wheel, all its makers, it’s history, and the experiments where wheels went wrong… so that you can spend most of your time and energy on the innovation instead of repetition. Here are some simple steps to lead your innovation in the right direction:
Understand the Problem Clearly
What is it you are trying to resolve? What about the way you are currently doing things is not working, specifically? “It’s not working”, is not specific. Do more research or dig deeper. The more specific you can be, the easier it is to find history on previous efforts and the faster you can get to possible solutions for your specific issue or problem.
Research Previous Solutions or Efforts
For example, if it’s leadership you’re trying to innovate or reinvent, research the teachings of Drucker, Maxwell, or Bennis (or even some woman named Wofford) or biographies of those you feel have led well. In a topic like this, there isn’t much that hasn’t been tried, but you may find that one key piece you haven’t tried yet. Innovation doesn’t have to be NEW, just new to you.
Ask for Input from Your Mentors or Leaders
Many times others will have figured a solution that worked for them, but may not have had time or interest in writing it down. Ask around for ideas and input for others on the best way to come up with a new idea to the seeming same old problem. Do be careful in that what works for someone else may or may not work for you in the same way.
Consider Your Own Style
Many times leaders who have the most drive and energy around innovation are the very same ones who decide “I need a creative solution to this old problem – NOW!” and they move head long and strong into finding a solution. The challenge here is that those same leaders and ambitious, highly focused folks, are not usually gifted in the area of meticulous research or patience. Thus in this case, if you are ARE one of those Type A stereotypical leaders and you want to innovate, first delegate the research to those who love it. Otherwise, you’ll not be an original, you’re efforts will result in being a repeat and that could be considered a waste of time, which Type A leaders dislike more than getting deep into details.
What are you doing to be innovative in your area of expertise? Do you know the specific solution you are looking for and who’s done what about it in the past?