Some people would maintain that a high-level education, the latest equipment, and a clear understanding of the experimental process are necessary conditions for innovation to occur. While these things are surely valuable, the most critical elements are less palpable. You must find inspiration and purpose. In the words of Sir Ken Robinson, you must find your element: the place where the things you’re good at coincide with the things you love. Innovation requires big thinking, new thinking, BOLD thinking, and a new perspective. Here are six ways to break loose, get inspired, and do something that’s never been done before.
- Think differently: Having your process is good, unless it limits your thinking because you’ve formed assumptions that you now believe to be facts. Brainstorm with someone who thinks very differently than you do and will challenge your assumptions, preferably someone in a completely different profession.
- Draw from other parts of your life: For most of us, work isn’t the only thing in our lives to which we dedicate time and energy. Look for opportunities to draw on your other experiences and skills. How could someone’s experience as a volunteer soccer coach be applied in a business setting? Does skateboarding relate to inter-office politics? I often tell people that one of the reasons I’m an effective welding engineer is that I have a jazz studies degree.
- Go with your gut: We typically make “decisions” with our conscious minds; however, it is well-established that most of our cognitive ability exists in our subconscious minds. One of the ways in which our subconscious minds communicate with us is through “gut” feelings. When we ignore these feelings, we are shutting out the participation of our most powerful team member! Learn to trust your gut and see what happens. This may require a leap of faith. As you see positive results, you’ll become more confident in this approach.
- Believe in possibility: This is as obvious as it is essential. You must believe, even if you don’t yet know all of the details. This is a place where trusting your gut helps. Your subconscious brain has likely sorted through many of the specifics – so if your gut tells you to believe in your idea, give it a go.
- Keep it rolling: Embrace the fact that your plan will have to change over and over. You’ll come up against problems that you’ll have to solve and you’ll likely have to make multiple adjustments to keep progressing. Be prepared to course-correct along the way and use the process shown in Figure 1 to keep things moving.
- Fall in love: It’s unlikely that you’ll innovate in field that you aren’t passionate about. Essentially, you need to at least enjoy your profession, and ideally, you should absolutely love it. If you don’t, it may be time to make a change.
I’m only one of a staggering number of innovators here at EWI – heck, innovation is even in our tagline! For example, our inventors are developing cutting-edge technologies for real-time monitoring of additive manufacturing processes. In other work, we’ve automated arc-welding repair of railroad frogs to significantly increase their durability. If you’d like to take advantage of our big team of even bigger thinkers, give us a call, and keep an eye out for 12 Ways to Become an Innovator – Part II!
To learn more about how EWI’s innovators can impact your business, contact us at 614.688.5152 or [email protected].