In our ever-evolving world, nothing has the cache and clout of being an “innovator.”
Why? Because innovators drive progress through fresh, creative thinking that meets our needs in breakthrough ways. They’re the ones who change how we do things…and even how we think about those things.
“Companies rely on new products, services, and experiences to fuel their growth and remain competitive,” says Terri Lonier, Ph.D., an innovation expert and advisor. “These ideas spring from the talents of individuals across an entire company.”
Innovation is fueled by creative thinking: analyzing or seeing new things in new ways, which allows you to solve problems, focus, and innovate when you need to most, like when your boss puts out a call for fresh ideas or you’re facing a dilemma that requires a new approach. Read on for three tips will help you tap into your creative side, find new solutions to old problems, and transform your out-of-the-box ideas into reality.
1. Reframe Obstacles as Opportunities
World-famous choreographer Twyla Tharp says in her book The Creative Habit, “Whom the gods wish to destroy, they give unlimited resources.” She points to her most breakthrough work on the stage as the result of incredible restrictions on rehearsal time, prep time, even the dancers who only have so much time to give her. Accept that obstacles, restrictions, and challenges as part of the rules of the game—and find ways to get around or get more from them.
Next time you face a challenge, take a sheet of paper and put “What if I could…” at the top. Then, write for five straight minutes without stopping. Write every crazy, colorful, fun possibility for solving the problem, even if it’s outlandish. Finally, go back and look between the lines. Is there is a hint of a solution that you hadn’t previously considered?
Better yet, do this exercise with a few coworkers or friends. The only rule: No judging or criticizing! Just let the ideas flow and focus on the ones that excite you the most.
2. Aim to Change, Not to Please
Innovation is rarely a solo pursuit, but getting others to support your idea can be just as challenging as coming up with the idea in the first place. As Forbes writer Brenna Sniderman explains, “It’s not just about that romantic ‘ah ha!’ moment in front of a chalkboard or on a cocktail napkin, it’s about the nitty-gritty work that comes after the idea: Getting it accepted and implemented.”
It’s important to understand that you may not win support right away. Your ideas may be rejected, more than once. Hearing “no” is never easy, especially when your pride is on the line— but if the fear of falling short drives your decision making, it will consistently keep you from doing what you want to do. Instead, challenge that fear with a mantra, such as “Rejection does not define me,” or “I am more afraid of not trying than I am of failing.”
3. Put Your Ideas to Work
To be a true innovator, you’ve got to commit to doing what it takes to get your idea off the ground. Not sure where to begin? Let your mind wander: A study in the Journal of Happiness Studies showed that daydreaming about the steps you need to take to accomplish a specific outcome can help you make progress toward that goal because you can rehearse for the future and mentally test out different scenarios without real-life risk. It’s the same idea behind meditation: When you give your rational mind a focus, your most creative ideas have the space to rise to the top.
Terri Trespicio is an award-winning writer, speaker, and a long-time media expert on health and well-being. She was one of the early contributors to meQuilibrium, and her work has been featured on Dr. Oz, Oprah magazine, Prevention, and MindBodyGreen, among others. Find her on Twitter @TerriT.