Innovation is something many organizations want but struggle to achieve. They use a range of tools to guide teams through the creative process, yet the result is often not innovative.
The problem isn’t with the tools themselves; they’ve been proven to work time and again. The problem is that these organizations start with what to do instead of how to think.
Fundamentally, the key to innovation is people. You can give a team all the best tools, but without the right mindset, it will not achieve innovation. As Carol Dweck’s research has found, individuals with a growth mindset achieve more than individuals with a fixed mindset. People with a growth mindset focus their energy on learning instead of trying to look smart. They seek out challenging problems and are unafraid of failure — yet unwilling to fail. Ultimately, they embody the beliefs and behaviors that make innovation possible.
A growth mindset is a great starting point, but it’s not enough. To be innovative, you also need to develop your spirit of innovation, which combines the attitude of seeing what’s possible with the fortitude to make it happen. The spirit of innovation doesn’t magically appear; you have to learn it over time. If you’re looking to foster a more innovative mindset, try practicing these three habits.
1. Create Possibility
Innovation is about doing something that’s never been done before. You’re not waiting for the future; you’re creating it. Unfortunately, what we believe is possible is typically limited by our context, which is a result of our experiences.
How can you move past these inherent biases? The more expertise you have, the more likely you are to know what’s not possible, which gives you an advantage by helping you learn to think like an outsider. Ask yourself what you would do if you were on the other side of the problem. This thought process forces you to step away from your expert mindset and challenge yourself to find a better way.
To speed this process along, bring some people into your discussion who have no expertise in your domain, and ask them what they might do. They will be less limited in their thinking, because they don’t know the boundary conditions. These individuals are the most likely people to develop ideas that no one else can see — the ideas that create a different future.
2. Be Positive
The pursuit of possibility means trying a lot of new ideas and facing a lot of failure. While some people deal with failure better than others, over time, it wears most people down. To combat this natural response, you must have a deeply held belief that there’s always a way to reach your goal. Some might call this belief faith. Others might see it as embracing the power of positive thinking.
Barbara Fredrickson, author of “Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3-to-1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life” and a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, points out that positive thinking can improve problem-solving by improving focus and cognition and broadening the scope of action that someone is willing to take. She’s also shown that positive thinking improves resiliency, a critical characteristic for dealing with failure.
You won’t achieve anything you don’t think is possible. Embrace the power of positive thinking to dramatically expand the range of possibilities.
3. Build Resolve
Great innovators often share one simple trait: They refuse to give up. Thomas Edison is proof of this theory. He claimed to have tested more than 3,000 different theories before developing an efficient lightbulb and to have run some 10,000 experiments with various chemicals and materials before he developed his alkaline storage battery. Edison is quoted as saying, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
This type of determination is critical to innovation. How can you build your resolve? Keep these tips in mind:
Make sure you really care. If you’re not genuinely passionate about the objective, you’re unlikely to accomplish it. Use emotion to push past the barriers that inevitably arise. People who believe they can change the world are the ones who do.
Embrace ignorance. What you don’t know can’t limit your thinking. Energy spent trying to figure out how difficult something will be is wasted energy, and it often has a negative effect on your resolve. Focus on what you need to do next to keep moving forward.
Push beyond your limits. Build your endurance for problem-solving, and learn to keep going when logic says to give up. When you start to hit the wall of doubt, convince yourself to give it one more day — and then one more. You’ll be surprised at how long you can keep going when you abandon self-imposed limitations.
Innovation can be a great equalizer in business and life. It gives startups the chance to take on established industry leaders, and it gives social entrepreneurs the ability to take on the status quo. Keep in mind that innovation starts with your mindset, not your tool set. Once you and your team have a spirit of innovation, anything is possible.