As I have reached the legal age in my relationships with innovation, new businesses, company creation and other similar things, I’m sharing my thoughts on the subject after a little encouragement from a former colleague, Bertrand Massanes.
In my opinion, great innovators are born with a number of characteristics that make them a curious and open vision, and, above all, wonder about things that question the statu quo. They can also take risks in pursuit of their vision, dealing with uncertain environments as best they can.
If these characteristics aren’t innate, they can also be learnt. Although, in order to activate them, you have to be able to make a transition from a more operational way of thinking (more common) to a more creative one at certain times. This is essential for innovating.
Training and experience also create innovation, it helps innovators to better analyse opportunities and risks, and stops them from being driven by their optimism, which, although sometimes it seems to be a little naïve, is crucial when embarking on adventures in which success isn’t guaranteed.
However, there are some less common attitudes that, in my experience, create a multiplier effect on one’s ability to successfully innovate. I’ve listed five of them here:
- Active listening: I think that we don’t actually realise how much we talk and how little we listen.Test it out. Put several people in front of a customer, ask the client to share their opinion, and observe how quickly they’re interrupted and silenced by someone else, when they may have been starting to tell you what they really need. Knowing when to listen and ask questions helps us better understand real needs, build confidence and create win-win business strategies. Or perhaps helps us realise – without devoting a lot of effort – that there’s any common project at the moment.
- The Test, Learn & Adapt mentality: One of my favourite innovation tools is making hypotheses based on the “strategic decline” of the information available, in order to test these hypotheses as soon as possible. This can be in the form of a consumer test, asking expert customers, or a small market test. It’s the opposite of developing an entire project internally and only testing it at the end, when time, money, and other resources have already been invested in an idea that may not have got out of the office and is probably shaped by the opinions of interns, managers, and directors, who may or may not be the target audience.
- Flexibility: Be humble enough to accept approaches that may differ from your own and might be better for the project. Then adapt your own ideas to get yourself on the right path quicker.
- Collaboration: Make the most of collective intelligence, both internally and externally, by creating a trusting and passionate environment for the challenge; an environment in which each collaborator is proud of their contribution to the success of the project. The sum of this collaboration, which should be diverse and complementary, has a multiplying effect, helping find opportunities and barriers that you wouldn’t identify by yourself.
- Don’t procrastinate: In other words, make decisions, even if they’re embarrassing and you’d prefer not to have to make them. We all find it difficult to make unpleasant decisions, but not making them usually creates problems that become entrenched or bigger, taking up time and resources that you should invest in things that’ll truly make a difference for the future. Decision-making is an essential skill, and assuming that responsibility is a must-have for any leader, namely for the innovation, which is a living process with lots of decisions that have to be made which affect the end result.
In addition to these attitudes, I’d like to share some resources with you that have helped me to develop successful innovations, or on the contrary, have caused them not to succeed (so, it’s important that you avoid them…).
- Visualise: It’s about being able to see the projects from their end to their beginning and from their beginning to their end. In other words, clearly visualise what the product/solution/service that we’re about to launch will look like, and the key steps needed to get there. Doing this will help you draw the critical path in your mind that you have to follow, highlighting the milestones you have to reach and identifying the stakeholders of each one. During the project, this path can be shaped and even modified, making it clearer and more precise.
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