Innovation does not happen inside a vacuum, innovation happens when existing ideas are expanded upon or seemingly random items come together to create a new solution. Every single one was built on previous inventions created by other inventors years, decades or even centuries before. Every invention has problems, and it might not be until some other inventor comes along that they get solved. To confuse things further, it usually isn’t the original inventor who gets all the credit, but rather the inventor who made the one crucial improvement that makes us all want one.
That is exactly what Jobs did with the Mac, the iPhone and the iPad he got the credit for the touch revolution of technology.
With innovation it doesn’t matter so much WHO was the last person to enhance an innovation – what drives the inventors to continue creating is the desire to change the world through an innovation.
Organizations are seeking leaders and teams who are able to innovate more rapidly and consistently in order to increase customer loyalty and happiness.
Here are three ways to innovate better as a leader:
1. Find divergent thinkers
Studies demonstrate the power of gaining input from areas that seem different at face value but are similar on a structural level. This is helping companies to find new ways to come up with breakthrough ideas. For example when researchers asked roofers and carpenters to come up with ways to improve the safety gear for inline skaters they provided ideas better than the team within the inline skating company. Conversely skaters proved better than roofers at coming up with superior safety gear for carpenters.
2. Be very comfortable with cynics
Turns out that those cynics on your team are adding to your ability to innovate. Typically within a company leaders will focus on brainstorming and exploring big ideas and enjoy these activities. While brainstorming is an important aspect of innovation there needs to be equal importance given to criticism and cynical points of view of the potential ideas. When a cynic pokes holes in a product or service or a structural idea they are providing valuable insights into a truly valuable innovation.
3. Ask your customers for their ‘wish list’ outside of your product or service
Crowdsourcing and customer think tanks have been a source for innovation for leaders and companies for a while. Rather than doing customer group tanks and asking for feedback on your goods and services ask them for their wish list that would make their life or work easier. Ask different and better questions of your clients – even divergent questions away from your product or service and you will gain tremendous intel into how to improve your deliverables for your clients. The same approach can be used with employees to increase employee engagement and retention.
The future of work will be collaborative, the work environment will be innovation focused and technology will generate ideas and concepts. Yet it is the leaders and the teams – the humans who will benefit from the innovations that will create innovations to transform the way we live and work.