Innovation Tip: Define Your Ideal Innovator

2 December 10

As you look to develop and grow your innovation team, take a few moments to define your ideal innovator. There is no one “type” that defines an innovator. Many are creative, flexible, collaborative, entrepreneurial, analytical, strong leaders, etc… However, the specific combination of skills that will make an innovator successful differs in each organization. It’s important to identify and prioritize what it takes to be a successful innovator in your own organization. What skills does someone on your innovation team need to have? What experiences? What mindset?

Open up a blank document, and create a few different headings: Skills, Experience, Mindset, Education, Outlook, Interests, etc. Under each heading, jot down what your ideal innovator looks like. Once you’ve completed this quick exercise, you will have in front of you a wish list for your innovation team.

This list can serve as a set of goals for your existing team (what skills and mindsets do you need to build internally?), and can also act as an interview document for new candidates.

Share with us below the skill set and mindset that it takes to be a good innovator in your firm.


Innovation Tip: Make a New Connection

5 November 10

One common characteristic of exceptional innovators is that they constantly reach outside their immediate circles to make new connections with interesting people. Fortunately, this is easier to do today than it ever has been before.

Think of an author who inspires you, or a business leader from another firm who you think might share some interesting insights with you. Look that person up (try LinkedIn if you’re having a hard time) and send them an email. People are usually more than happy to share some of their experiences and insights with you, and, like you, are often looking to connect with new people.

Make a habit of reaching out to people, and you’ll soon find yourself with a network of innovative friends through which you can toss around new ideas and broaden your perspective.

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Innovation Tip: Refine Your Goals, Rethink Your Strategy

23 September 10

As an innovation leader, you need to help your team understand the role of innovation in executing specific corporate goals and strategies. Employees can become distracted by irrelevant ideas when there is no guidance on the strategic outcomes that your organization values.

To help your team better focus its efforts, pick apart your organization’s larger corporate strategy. Find out what’s important to your organization? Is it customer service? New product development? Organic growth? After selecting what’s important, define the particular outcomes and goals your organization strives toward. Now work backwards and outline how innovation can help you attain those goals. Customer service excellence, for example, can be attained by coming up with new ways that your organization can communicate with its customers.

As you work backwards, keep narrowing your focus until you arrive at a set of tasks and ideas that your innovation team can work on. Keep asking “how?” By the end of this exercise, you’ll end up with an innovation project list that is directly linked to your corporate strategy, which is something senior managers throughout your organization can get behind.

Innovation Tip: Schedule Idle Time

5 August 10

The more we study the brain and evolution, the more we’re discovering that the idle brain is more likely to come up with new ideas. Yet we’re conditioned to be focused, efficient, and task-oriented. Yes, focus and efficiency are important in terms of executing ideas; but when it comes to ‘thinking the big thoughts’, it’s important to give your mind some time to rest and wander.

If you or your employees are charged with coming up with new ideas or strategies, be sure to schedule some idle time into your day or week. Not brainstorming time, not research time—but idle time. Leave yourself time to let your mind wander. Take a break from email and meetings and go take a walk. Mental breaks are important when it comes to being creative and opening up to new, fresh ideas.

There’s no special formula to follow. Some people take short breaks during a hectic day to decompress and think. Others take a couple of days each month; or a week or two each year. The duration of your idle time isn’t what’s important—the fact that you give yourself this time is.

Innovation Tip: Blog It!

14 July 10

SoWalMart's customer blogme of the best ideas can come from your customers. To better tap this wealth of possible innovation, set up a channel through which you can communicate directly with them. A blog, for example, is a great way for you to post regular updates about what’s happening at your organization. Invite customers to sound off on what they think about something you’re developing (or something you should be developing), and use the blog as a forum in which to toss around and build ideas. For inspiration, take a look at how WalMart and Kidrobot use a blog-like channel to connect with customers.

Innovation Tip: Fast Track Your Ideas

8 July 10

fast track your ideasAre you moving fast enough when it comes to testing and building your ideas? The best innovators know that prototyping and piloting ideas are critical parts of the innovation process. These steps lead to new learning and insights, and result in a better final product. But too many organizations place too much pressure on the prototyping phase of a project and work for months to get the prototype “just right.” The goal of prototyping should be to seek feedback, not acceptance.

Prototyping and piloting should be focused on getting peer and customer insights and feedback so that the ultimate product is not just innovative but also functional in terms of meeting customer needs. Read the rest of this entry »