How To Think Like an Innovator
Do you know people who always seem to be overflowing with ideas? We do too. If you are new at a company, it won’t be long before you hear their names. They are always invited to brainstorming sessions and they liven up every discussion with their fresh, unconventional viewpoints.
Becoming one of these people is as much a matter or discipline as it is a matter of talent. To help open the creativity floodgates in our minds, here are a few things which we can learn from our inspirational colleagues:
- Read. Creative individuals are exceptionally well read. Thomas Edison – one of history’s most successful innovators – set a goal for himself to read all the books in the library. Novels, poems, how-to books and news – any food for the mind makes it stronger and creates a database of facts you can draw upon when you need an idea or a solution. Since most new ideas are inspired by or built upon already existing ideas, knowing more means being more creative.
- Think. Many of us go through our days taking things for granted. We consume the joys, the surprises, as well as the nuisances and often don’t think twice about them. Creative thinkers behave differently. They use the everyday occurrences as a springboard to new ideas and improvements. Like Howard Schultz, who created the Starbucks concept after experiencing the Italian espresso bars. What would have been just a pleasant cup of coffee and a cool cultural experience to most people was the key that unlocked Schultz’s imagination.
- Criticize. Creative thinking is critical thinking. The question “How can I improve this experience?” is a very powerful brainteaser. Just think of how many products out there solve problems or inconveniences: the remote control, the Swiffer, the Post-it… Next time you are in a frustrating situation like standing in a line which is taking too long, for example, ask yourself the question: “How can I improve this experience?” The answer may surprise you with its simplicity. This is how unpleasant experiences become idea starters.
- Socialize. Think about your closest circle of friends. Are they similar to you? Similar job, similar lifestyle, similar car, similar hobbies. This is not unusual, as most of us gravitate towards people we can relate to. However, expanding one’s circle to include people from other walks of life exposes us to new views and ideas. So seek out friends with different cultures, backgrounds and occupations. Listen to their thoughts and opinions and let them help you see things differently and become more creative.
- Define problems in broad terms. If you think about a problem or a task in isolation, you may have difficulty finding an effective solution. As this post discusses, the key is to redefine the problem. If you imagine the problem in a more broad, conceptual sense, you will be able to draw inspiration from adjacent product categories and analogous situations.
Have any of these mind “exercises” worked for you? Or, perhaps, you have another preferred way to stimulate your creative thinking. Please use the comments to share it.