“Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. The act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.” Peter F. Drucker
As an employee, business owner, or self-employed contractor there is a critical success factor for staying ahead of your competition.
It’s called innovation, the art of introducing something new (as per dictionary.com). Our customers, internal and external, are starving for new, fresh, and different. And if you can deliver new ideas, others will recognize you and reward you as a thought leader.
Jim Carroll is recognized as one of the world’s leading global futurists, trends & innovation experts – with a massive global blue chip client list. He gave a keynote speech in Chicago, sharing some key success factors that set world-class innovators apart from the pack. You can use these same success factors to propel yourself forward and ahead of your competition.
“What is it that world-class innovators do that other organizations don’t do?”(And what is it that you can do that your co-workers or competition cannot do?) Read on:
1. Innovation Success Factor: Be Relentless in Your Pursuit of Growth
World class innovators have a relentless focus on growth: Says Jim, “I deal with a lot of CEO’s at a lot of organizations, and in almost every instance, they’ve engaged me because my message of future growth opportunities resonates with their own attitude. In my view, there are unprecedented opportunities for growth in almost every industry.”
- What free education does your employer offer to you? Are you taking advantage to the fullest of this education to sharpen your personal growth and development? The more you learn, the more perspectives you expose yourself to, and the more information you have to draw from and create from.
- Read top industry business magazines, blogs, and journals. Inc., Fast Company, and Entrepeneur.Com are some examples that come to mind. There are a host of excellent business blogs on the internet. Subscribe to them and start learning. Feedly.com is a great place to aggregate and share all your online content.
- What books are you taking advantage of through your local library?
- What audio programs are you listening to?
2. Innovation Success Factor: Make Change Your Only Constant
Top companies and employees have an aggressive and positive view of change. The rate of information and content being disseminated across the globe is astounding. Either go with the flow and ahead of it, or you will soon be outdated and stale.
Application: How can I be intentional about taking a new risk or taking on a new project today, this week, or this quarter?
3. Innovation Success Factor: Anticipate and Create
“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” Wayne Gretzky
Here are some questions to ask yourself, reflect on, and create solutions for:
- What are your boss’s most pressing problems? What solutions can you provide to help her/him?
- What are your customers’ most common complaints? What creative solutions can you come up with to WOW them ahead of time, before they are even aware there is a solution
- What are some key trends you can take advantage of to “provide a constant flood of new, irresistible innovations for our customer base?”
4. Innovation Success Factor: Put ideas into action early, often, and continuously
- Are you taking time, at least one time a week to generate ideas?
- Once you generate ideas, are you implementing those ideas?
Great companies are the ones that are constantly implementing new ideas. Google’s Buzz product and Google voice came out of the expectation that 20% of all employees’ time is to be spent on experimenting with and creating new ideas and products. It is that kind of commitment to innovation that has made Google as great as it is today. But if it ever stops innovating, there will be a competitor hot on its heels!
5. Innovation Success Factor: Apply CANI (Constant and Never Ending Improvement) for Long Term Gains
- As you go through your day, either as an employee, contractor, or business owner, identify a problem, waste, defect or something that is not working. Write it down.
- Take time to generate at least 20 ideas as solutions. If the solution comes to you more quickly, and it seems like a good one, suggest it to your supervisor.
- Put your idea into action immediately.
- Review and reflect on the solution. Is it working? Is it helping? If so, make sure that you write this down on your personal list of accomplishments for your personal career record for the year. If you are a contractor, you may want to ask politely for a testimonial from a satisfied customer. If you are an employee, you can utilize your track record to politely make your case for a raise.
6. Innovation Success Factor: Connect and Collaborate
- Be on the lookout for friends, customers, and other parts of the ‘competition’ that you can joint venture with.
- Seek to help them succeed. No one wants to feel they are just part of your agenda. Genuinely look for ways that you can help the other person.
- If you are an employee, look for another sharp co-worker who may want to collaborate on an innovative solution to boost your department’s performance. Upper management will welcome this like a breath of fresh air, since they are always looking for engaged employees.
- If you are a business owner, are you networking with other sharp business people both in and out of your industry? How can you help them solve their problems? How can you work together to create something bigger than either of you could create together?
7. Innovation Success Factor: Think Big and Bold
Making incremental improvements every day is essential, but it needs to be balanced with a big and bold vision.
Create a BHAG for yourself! That stands for a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal! This can be an exciting process, because so few people every raise their heads from the feeding trough of mediocrity to look around them at the big blue sky and mountains beckoning them to more! Stop scratching around in that barnyard, and start making the journey toward excellence.
Here are some thinking points:
- Imagine that you are on a hero’s journey. This is the starting point, and you are going to be traveling to the top of Mount Everest (representing your BHAG). What will be some of the equipment you will need? How will you need to train to get into shape? Are there some skills you will need to develop? What are some boulders/obstacles you will encounter along the way? How will you overcome them?
- Here are some examples of Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals:
‘One of my clients was proud of his BHAG, about transforming an industry; it was indeed a stretch, and a big and bold one. (from the Tom Peters Blog) ‘
‘I have also set a big goal of running a marathon in April 2010, and I want to finish under four hours for sure but my BHAG is to qualify for BOSTON’. — Discussion Forum – TuDiabetes – A Community for People Touched by Diabetes
‘In the next five years, by this date, ___________, our church will send 10,000 wheelchairs to the poorest of the poor in five selected countries. ‘
In writing out my own personal mission statement recently, I realized that, too often, I think too small: about my gifts, abilities, legacy, desires, goals, and capacity for creativity for innovation. The world needs what you have to offer: so think Big, not small!
The world, your customers, and your company is desperate for fresh ideas and fresh content. I challenge you to add this skill to your personal career development: the success factor of innovative thinking. One of the best resources I have read in this regard is John Maxwell’s book, Thinking for a Change. I encourage you to check it out at your library or buy it for your own personal library: then apply the methods within!
photo credit: Casey David
Which of the innovation success factors is most pertinent to you now? How are you going to apply this in your personal or professional life this next week?