Becoming an Everyday Innovator: Start with Baby Steps

March 25, 2024
4 min read

Innovation is one of the best ways of overcoming business challenges—yet it’s often misrepresented as being overly complex. From “buzzy” methodologies to rigid frameworks, even the most creative teams can get bogged down by misconceptions.

In truth, innovation is actually much simpler than it may seem. It’s as simple as getting people to leverage new skills and ways of working to break out of the traditional corporate mold. You don’t have to be on the innovation team to be more creative, nimble, or agile. You don’t have to be part of a complex process or approach. You just need to focus on a few core underlying skills. Innovation is simple and it starts with you.

Here are a few suggestions you can use to become an Everyday Innovator.

Focus on the challenges

At its core, innovation is about solving problems in new and unique ways. This can be as simple as looking at an existing process and trying to figure out how it can be changed for the better. For example, one of our clients, a large financial services institution, learned that their expense reimbursement process was time-consuming and inefficient; by talking to employees and understanding their frustrations, they were able to develop a much more efficient solution.

If you can get to the needs and challenges of those around you, you’re already presented with opportunities to innovate. Try posing a question or two to your colleagues, stakeholders, or customers to understand where they could use some help or where they’ve run into obstacles, like “Tell me about the last time you were challenged by an existing process” or even “What keeps you awake at night when you think about your job?”

Adopt an experimental mindset  

Every interaction is an opportunity to test new concepts and ideas. Do you have an idea for a new way to run the sales meeting? Try it once. Let your team or your colleagues know that this is going to be experimental and you’re open to feedback.

Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmundson talks about the idea of intelligent failure; structured experiments in which a “failing” outcome helps us learn. A concept originally coined by Sim Sitkin, intelligent failure can be a powerful source of information. When people embrace this type of failure, they can learn faster and create more room for innovation.

Get a cup of coffee

No idea is borne in a vacuum. Consistent research has shown that the more contact and interaction you have with others, especially with people from different backgrounds, the more likely you are to come up with new and inspiring ideas. This is one of the reasons why diverse teams tend to be much more creative than homogenous teams. This is also the reason why diverse cosmopolitan cities tend to be fountains of new creative ideas.

In fact, a Boston Consulting Group survey found that organizations with above-average diversity earned 45% of their revenue through innovation, compared with just 26% for companies with below-average diversity.

Steve Jobs knew this, designing Apple’s new HQ to maximize the amount of contact people would have with others around them. You can leverage this by exposing yourself to as many people as possible within the organization. Working in procurement? Go get a cup of coffee with someone in sales. Find out what their challenges are, what they’ve solved, and what they’re learned as a result. You never know how this might inspire you.

Remember that innovation starts small

We often tend to think that the goal of innovation is to create the next iPad, the next cell phone, or some other revolutionary device. Nothing could be further from the truth. Innovation is not some distant goal on a faraway mountaintop that requires a multi-month journey, a backpack, and a guide. Innovation can start today by taking baby steps.

So where do you begin? Ask yourself, where do you see small challenges and inefficiencies around you? How can you address these in new and unique ways? For example, during your next call or meeting, ask the person you’re talking to about some of the challenges or needs they’ve come across in their job. What change could you introduce to make their life simpler?

You listened, you learned, and you made changes. Et voila, you are an Everyday Innovator.

Interested in building a culture of everyday innovation across your organization? Find out more about our Everyday Innovator e-learning module.

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Becoming an Everyday Innovator: Start with Baby Steps