Your Business Needs To Embrace Innovation!

StrategyDriven Innovation Article |Innovation|Your Business Needs To Embrace Innovation!If there’s one thing that sums up the realities of the modern world more than just about anything else, it’s the sheer pace of it. The modern world moves at such a speed that it can actually be somewhat overwhelming a lot of the time. There are few places where this is felt more keenly than it the business world. Keeping up with the world around your business has always been a challenge but it keeps getting harder as the world moves faster and faster every day. This means that there is one thing that your business needs to be willing to embrace in order to succeed: innovation. If you’re not willing to innovate, your business is just going to end up getting left in the dust by your competition. With that in mind, here are just a few areas of your business that could use a little innovation.

Technology

The most obvious place for innovation is most certainly the realm of technology. Technology has been the driving force behind a great deal of innovation both within the business world and in the rest of the world in general. Because of that, you need to be sure that your business is willing to embrace new technologies. Just look at the various businesses that refused to accept the rise of the internet. From cloud storage to specific things like Fusion Narrate speech recognition software, there are so many ways that technology can both make your business more efficient and connect with the world more effectively. Sure, you need to use a degree of discretion about which technology you use in your business, but keeping an eye on the horizon is always a good idea.

Employees

For the longest time, it’s been assumed that the way that employers have treated their employees has been working just fine. However, the truth is that more and more businesses are finding the benefits in innovating the ways that they treat their employees. Thinks like offering more flexible work hours and the potential for things like remote working can make a huge difference not only to the morale of your employees but their overall productivity as well.

Marketing

Marketing is one of those things that is inherently tied to the current moment and generation. If you want to be able to market your business effectively then you’ve got to be able to keep up with the changing times. People in the modern era simply don’t connect with traditional marketing. Instead, they want to content. You need to be able to connect with them on an emotional level.

Of course, one of the most important things that you have to remember is that it’s not enough just to innovate within your business once. If you introduce some innovations into your business and then assume that you can just rest on your laurels then you’re just going to end up in a position where the world keeps moving forward and you’re stuck in one place. You need to be willing to keep pushing your business forward in as many ways as possible if you want to keep up with the rest of the world.

From Spark to Flame – How to Find Ideas Worth Pursuing

StrategyDriven Innovation Article |Innovation|From Spark to Flame - How to Find Ideas Worth PursuingTurning fresh ideas into full-blown, marketable commodities is the mandate of every innovation team. The endeavor is more than serendipity. A great part is honed skill.

While originality and innovation spring from deep in the recesses of the mind, it’s our job to develop a creation mindset. This requires strengthening that mental muscle that allows new ideas to arise and exciting refinements to emerge. Part of this exercise is overcoming the self-judgment, criticism and lack of confidence that all contribute to our ability or lack thereof to think quickly or creatively.

I take my inventiveness cues from improvisational comedy. I’ve performed in, directed and produced improv comedy shows for more than 20 years. In improv, the actors make up scenes and stories from nothing. They build off of each other’s ideas without worrying about what the entire scene is going to look like. They just focus on the small, in-the-moment decisions.

As in improv, refining our ability to heighten inspiration and add our own creativity and imagination to an initial idea will let us take ideas to unexpected and exciting places.

Generally speaking, ideas don’t hit like a lightening bolt. Nor do they spring up fully formed, packaged and ready to market. The trick is to recognize the spark when our mental radar identifies a blip of inspiration, and then decide to act on it.

How do we go about finding the spark? Here are some ways that consistently help me set fire to new and interesting ideas:

1. Curiosity. Allowing ourselves to pursue interests for no reason other than the fact that something intrigues us is reason enough to explore new subjects. When you allow your curiosity to explore new concepts, you create new data points in your brain. What we’re doing is filling our “subconscious thought well” with snippets of ideas that our brains can reference. Ideas don’t come out of nowhere — they come out of that subconscious thought well. The more curious we are, the more and different pieces of information we make available to draw from.

2. Go do stuff. Moving from a passive role to an active roll activates the entirety of our bodies and ingrains whatever we’re doing more deeply. Like flowers? Then actually plant and grow some. Interested in history? Take a guided tour of an historic site. The point is, when we actually go out and physically experience whatever we’re most interested in, it becomes a part of us that can never be if we’re just watching. Having pursued a broad assortment of experiences gives us a greater capacity for making associations from a piece of information. Like improv actors, we’re able to build upon ideas by making connections or finding possibilities in all kinds of unexpected places.

3. Observe. Different from spectating, observing is a purposeful activity where we’re consciously focusing on what we see, hear and feel. When we observe, we tend to see both the micro and macro aspects. We take in the entire scene in the macro, yet pick out specific details in the micro. Observing is important to the creative process because we’re again taking in new information and building that subconscious database. This new information allows potentially unrelated concepts to collide to allow something new to happen.

4. Ignite sparks. Every day, people come across sparks of inspiration. An idea comes to mind and a small flash of excitement courses through us as we say to ourselves, “Hey, that’s a pretty good idea.” But most of us never do a thing about it and the spark dies out. The ability to jump on the spark is the single most important way of putting innovative ideas in motion. When we have a positive emotional reaction to an idea, it means there’s something there to take a look at. It may just mean starting to research it online. Some sparks will die a natural death, and that’s okay. What we’re doing is strengthening that muscle that allows us to make connections and let things spontaneously combust.

5. Fan the flame. Following inspirations even to their next iteration creates a momentum that can eventually allow a spark to flicker to life. One hundred sparks may die out for every one that builds into a flame, but when excitement for an idea doesn’t die and continues to energize us, we need to jump on it and see where it goes. From following an idea to its next logical step, one decision leads to the next. As the flame of the idea continues to build, we reach the point where we’ve envisioned something worth creating.

By following our curiosity, which leads us to do stuff, and observing what’s happening around us, we’ll start to experience the feeling of inspiration. And by fanning those sparks of inspiration that continue to excite us, we’re more likely to land on ideas worth pursuing.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Norm LavioletteNorm Laviolette is the co-founder and CEO of Improv Asylum, IA Innovation and Asylum Gaming and Esports (AGE). He has performed, directed or produced more than 10,000 improvisational comedy shows on three continents. He brings the experience of building companies from the ground up into multi-million dollar businesses. Norm Laviolette has worked with Fortune 500 companies, including Google, Red Bull, Fidelity and more. His new book, The Art of Making Sh!t Up: How to Work Together to Become an Unstoppable Powerhouse (Wiley, May 7, 2019), describes how the techniques of improv can transform teams into more powerful, creative and healthy organizations. Learn more at iainnovation.com.

Rethinking Daydreaming: Why A Wandering Mind Benefits Business

StrategyDriven Innovation Article |Creative Thinking|Rethinking Daydreaming: Why A Wandering Mind Benefits BusinessWhere does an idea come from? It’s a debatable question, and one that likely invokes an image of classic cartoons and lightbulbs above heads. In real life, those “eureka!” moments most commonly crop up at unexpected times; you might be in the shower, or taking the garbage out, when suddenly the solution to a problem you’ve been working so desperately to solve, freely presents itself – and you weren’t even thinking about it! This is no modern phenomenon, either. We all know the iconic story of Sir Isaac Newton and the proverbial apple which hit him on the head at just the right moment, so that alas, the beginnings of his theory on gravity was born. What you might not know, however, is that other such instances of lightning strikes of inspiration are documented throughout the history books and span well into the present day. One thing connects these incredible moments of realisation: daydreaming.

In our productivity-obsessed world, “daydreaming” is not a popular concept. After all, who has time to sit with their feet up, lost to the world, while notifications overflow their many digital devices? Our modern culture sees daydreaming as either a luxury or just plain laziness – but in reality, focused daydreaming is a powerful tool of ideation that businesses cannot afford to overlook. If the mind is a machine, daydreaming is the oil that keeps the cogs moving. From writer’s block, to tricky problems, trying to force ideas only tightens everything up; hence pushing forward becomes impossible. Businesses that welcome daydreaming see the value in letting employees get up from their desk so they can spend some time going for a wander or relaxing in a new environment. This space to breathe will be far more effective in producing top ideas and creative solutions to problems than getting someone to force it out through hard work ever could be.

To harness the power of focused daydreaming, you have to make it practical. As nice as looking out the window thinking about dinner might be, it’s unlikely to produce any ground-breaking ideas. Perhaps you’re wondering how then, on occasion, good ideas come to you at random times? The answer lies in the separation of the conscious and unconscious brain. While you’re thinking of other things, your subconscious keeps ticking over in the background. This is where goal-oriented thinking comes in; for daydreaming to be productive, it is key you marry the goals of your two distinct minds. Fuel your brain by doing your homework. Spend some time gathering and processing all the relevant information – remember, you don’t have to do anything with it just yet, you just need to make sure you have good knowledge of all the relevant resources. With your mind full of information, switch off and do something else for 30 to 60 minutes. Have a coffee, go for a walk, doodle, listen to music – whatever it is that suits you, totally remove yourself from the problem for that block of time. When you come back, you’ll likely find that fresh ideas and solutions are suddenly available to you – and if they’re not, try the process again. Take breaks, breathe; the lower the pressure, the more likely you are to actually discover the answer you’re searching for.

For the remaining daydream skeptics, just take a look at some of the world’s most prominent geniuses and artists. Einstein credits daydreaming – or what he called his ‘thought experiments’ – with some of his greatest achievements, having apparently come up with his theory of relativity whilst imagining the journey he’d take sitting on a beam of light. The composer Mozart would daydream about music while on walks through the tranquil countryside, allowing the sounds of nature to become the foundation of his later compositions. Thomas Edison had an unusual technique wherein he’d hold ball bearings whilst relaxing, as he began to fall asleep, he’d drop the balls thus waking himself up so he could note down any ideas that came to him. The list of daydream advocates is long and embellished with innovators, but there is only one way you can prove the power of daydreaming in business to yourself and colleagues: that is to try it. So wise up, walk away, and discover what new and inventive solutions come to you whilst thinking of other things – so you can finally achieve that “Eureka!” moment.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Chris GriffithsChris Griffiths, author of The Creative Thinking Handbook: Your Step-By-Step Guide To Problem Solving In Business, is founder and CEO of OpenGenius. Griffiths has helped thousands of people worldwide drive business growth using highly practical innovation processes, including teams and individuals from Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies, the United Nations, governments, the European Commission and Nobel Laureates. He is a pioneer in combining creative thinking strategies with technology to enhance productivity and is behind the iMindMap and DropTask apps, now utilized by over two million people worldwide.

How Sustainable Innovation is Changing the Face of Business

StrategyDriven Innovation Article | How Sustainable Innovation is Changing the Face of Business | Sustainable InnovationThe climate crisis has been going on for decades, but the issue has only become a contentious one in the last few years due to huge public backlash against companies and governments alike. There is no room for debate on the issue, either. A contentious study has estimated that we have wiped out 60% of wildlife since 1970. Over 200,000 acres of rainforest are burned every day, plastics have become so pervasive they now exist in every fish tested, and in turn in our own digestive systems.

The earth overshoot day, which documents how many resources the earth can resupply in a given year, is getting shorter. In 2018, it was August 1st. In 1970, it was January 1st, meaning that in less than 50 years we went from using resources that could be replenished, to requiring 1.7 Earths to sustain our consumption.

Businesses in all industries must take note and must take action, and with these top innovations leading the way the future is indeed looking brighter.

The Rise of Sustainable Innovation

Sustainable innovation has arisen for two main reasons:

Public Awareness

In some cases referred to as the “Attenborough Effect,” the public is now massively aware of how their consumption is affecting the planet. After the airing of Blue Planet, a huge outcry over single-use plastics was resounded throughout the world. To date, it is estimated that there has been a 53% reduction of single-use plastics, and many countries around the world have banned or limited the use of plastic for disposable purposes.

Environmental Need

The environment can simply not handle it. Without change companies will die out and so too will entire communities.

Top Sustainable Innovations to Be Aware Of

That is why all businesses must be aware of the sustainable innovations occurring around the world. That way you can both partner with the right companies that are leading the way to a greener future, and get an idea of what you can personally do for the planet with your own company. Balancing the environment and profits can be a challenge, but when you take in the fact that over-consumption might put you entirely out of business, you have no choice.

Innovative Materials Changing Fashion

Fashion is a massive industry with many subsects, such as accessories, shoes, and handbags. The practice has been so damaging to the environment that entire lakes have disappeared, thousands have died, millions are underpaid or work in forced labor conditions, rivers run bright with chemical dyes, and much more.

Fashion is disastrous for the environment, right down to the cotton production that fuels the industry. That is why many innovative textiles are coming onto the scene that aims to use more ecologically friendly plants or waste.

1. Hemp

Hemp is a very durable material that looks and feels similar to linen, but is much easier to produce and less demanding on the environment.

2. Nettle

Stinging nettles are often considered to be pests, but nettle is enjoying a reemergence as a popular textile. People have been using it to create a durable fabric for over 2000 years, and unlike hemp can legally be grown around the world.

3. Ground Coffee

Used coffee grounds are often considered to be a waste product, but with recent innovations in Taiwan, coffee grounds are now turning into fibers. They are created with a polymer, and then spun into a yarn.

4. Pineapple Fabric

The vegan, waste-friendly alternative to leather is made from pineapple. Other innovations have also produced great results with mushrooms. Pineapple, however, has been tested and is very durable.

Circular Economy Innovation

The circular economy is essentially a system that reuses waste rather than sending anything to be recycled or to fill up a landfill. Plastic bottles, for example, can be recycled, but as their quality degrades they would not qualify as a circular item. On the other hand using coffee grounds to make fabric, which then has another life cycle of its own that can decompose safely or be remade into new fabric, is.

Innovations in Agriculture

The issue of agriculture is a big one. How do we realistically intend to feed 9 billion people and growing? We will need to adopt new practices that push farming away from the countryside (and far away from deforestation) and instead:

5. Underground Production

Underground production will use LED lights and unused urban areas like subway tunnels to produce food. Though this is not enough to feed a city, it is certainly a good start. What needs to be pushed further is the adoption of personal gardens in cities, from vertical gardens to balcony gardens.

6. Power of AI

Using sensors, AI, and machine learning agriculture should theoretically be able to optimize production and reduce water consumption and pesticide use.

7. Use of LED

LED is paving the way for increased crop growth rate, allowing more to be produced in a single crop yielding. It will be instrumental in urban farming and can help reduce the amount of land that will need to be cleared for agriculture in the future. You can read more here.

Reusing Waste to Build Our Cities

Though not a perfect solution, many are attempting to give plastic a new home in an industrial building. Low-cost homes are being made out of plastic bottles and other building materials, roads are being made out of single-use plastics, and even fabrics are being created out of recycled plastic (different than polyester). Using plastic like this is not a complete solution, but it does give more direction on how to reuse these indestructible materials.

Recapturing Water

Water consumption needs to be reduced dramatically, which is why water recycling is paramount for sustainable innovation. Capturing water already used in production and reusing it again and again is the best way to limit the amount of fresh water taken from the environment.

Use of Sustainable Energy

Wind farms are now more cost effective to build than a coal plant for the first time in history, but to truly rely on sustainable energy more innovative methods will need to be produced. Companies and individuals alike will then need to actively choose to use sustainable energy producers to further incentivize dirty power companies to go green.

Your Company Is A Well Of Ideas – Stop Poisoning It

StrategyDriven Innovation Article | Your Company Is A Well Of Ideas – Stop Poisoning It | Innovation For The FatiguedI work with creativity and innovation in companies, and I’m frustrated. There are many reasons for this, with my famous impatience being near the top of the list, but one things stands above the rest. This is the insistence of companies and CEOs that their organizations lack ideas. I hear this over and over again, yet it is never true. Not in their organizations, and not in yours.

The fact of the matter is, I’ve never met an organization that lacks ideas. Not one, and I’ve worked with some of the most backwards bureaucracies in the world, and with innovation in North Korea to boot. Be it a Fortune 50 corporation, or a small, local company, the same holds. They all claim they have a problem with generating enough ideas, and they’re all wrong. They already have all the ideas they could even need, and so do you.

You see, the problem is never idea generation. Ever. I can teach a monkey to run a decent idea generation workshop, and although it would make people all creative and stuff, it wouldn’t impact your bottom line in the slightest. Because it isn’t more ideas you need, it’s not killing the ones you already have. In my research, I’ve found a myriad of ways through which companies kill ideas. Bad processes is one, a lack of leadership is another, but the number one idea killer in the world is one that gets little attention – not having a culture in which ideas can take root, but which kills them through not caring.

This can play out in a number of ways. It might be that an eager young employee suggests a new way of working, but only elicits yawns in response. It might be the way in which people who aren’t seen as “innovators” get marginalized and feel that their ideas are not listened to. It might be a lack of psychological safety, where the company is filled to the brim with ideas, but where no-one dares give voice to them. In all these cases, a toxic innovation culture has effectively killed innovation before it even has had the chance to present its first, weak saplings.

What leaders need to do is not just to demand people innovate, or encourage people to “think outside of the box” (a phrase I hate with burning passion). The first task of the innovation leader is to ensure that the culture into which ideas might come is fertile ground for them, rather than a place where only the few get listened to and where ideas are more likely to get shrugged or yawned at than engaged with. You might already have a well of ideas, but if the water is poisoned, it won’t help you a whit.

So before you have your next creativity workshop or innovation initiative, make sure you’ve audited your culture for the things ideas need to flourish. Is it respectful, to ideas and people, and is the conversation civil? Does it exhibit psychological safety, and encourage diverse ideas and conversations? Is it inclusive or exclusive – does everyone get invited to play? Is your culture one of generosity, of give and take, or is it every person and idea for themselves? Unless you are prepared to reflect over such things, it rarely matters what kind of innovation management you have in place, and all those innovation consultants will be for naught. For just like culture might eat strategy for breakfast, it can have a ravenous appetite for ideas, killing them outright at the very first moment they come out of hiding.

So don’t complain about how your company, or your team, lacks ideas. It doesn’t. It never did. Complain about the culture that kills your ideas before they come to fruition, and then start thinking about what you might do to change the situation. Make sure people stop poisoning the well, and you’ll never go without ideas again. You might get a nicer, more civil organization to boot.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Alf Rehn | Innovation for the FatiguedAlf Rehn, author of Innovation for the Fatigued: How to Build a Culture of Deep Creativity, is recognized as a global thought-leader in the field of innovation and creativity. Rehn is Professor of Innovation, Design, and Management at the University of Southern Denmark, sits on numerous boards of directors, is a bestselling author, and serves as a strategic advisor for hot new startups to Fortune 500 companies.

For more information, please visit KoganPage.