Thinking outside the box and developing fresh ideas can feel like a lot of pressure in today’s competitive and rapidly advancing world. As leaders, what can we do that is different? How do we reinvent ourselves? What can we do that is new and needed? When you’re trying to force those answers, our brains seem to freeze. Developing an “innovative mind” is a skill needed to have mental creativity and to approach the world in a fresh (and perhaps unconventional) way. Innovation today is critical for a growing business. It helps your organization remain up-to-date and allows your company to evolve, better serve clients and expand your market.
As a coach who specializes in helping organizations navigate innovative efforts, I’ve seen that while some leaders have the natural gift of being innovative, many must learn to develop the skill and integrate it into their life as a regular practice.
Incorporate the following five activities into your daily life, and you can develop the innovative mind you seek:
- Mindfulness: Clear your mind to create space for new thought.
- In today’s world — where we are overstimulated with communication — the mind is full of thoughts and concepts to sort through. As a result, coming up with new ideas can be challenging because your mind is already distracted by the noise coming from everything around you.
- One practice of the innovative mind that cuts through the noise is mindfulness, which can help you clear your mind and prevent you from being overwhelmed by what’s going on in your life. Here are some ways to develop space for mindfulness:
- Schedule a daily meditation. Some make meditating a morning habit, some practice at lunch and others in a class. You can even meditate just before bed or break it into smaller sessions throughout the day — just find what works for you.
- Download an app. Certain apps for your phone or smartwatch can be helpful for some people who need reminders for practicing mindfulness exercises. They can also encourage you to practice deep breathing, thought-clearing exercises or short, guided meditation.
- Join a class. A yoga class, for example, incorporates deep breathing into a workout session. Start small. Try something, and see what is natural for you. (You’ll likely be glad you did.)
- Learning: Commit yourself to personal growth.
- Harry S. Truman famously said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” I believe reading inspires new thought, shares different perspectives and challenges the mind to reflect and consider other ways of thinking, so make a point to start a new book. If you’re not very interested in reading or feel you don’t have the time, experiment with audiobooks or detailed summaries to quickly expand your learning.
- In addition to reading, consider taking a class online, seek a mentor or coach to enable your personal growth, attend webinars, etc. Be committed to personal growth. Pick a growth area each quarter, and make it a goal to develop in that area.
- Self-Reflection: Take an honest look at what is working and what isn’t.
- Every great leader must be able to step back and objectively reflect on their own abilities, as well as identify the strengths and weaknesses of yourself, your team and your business. The result? Problems are resolved efficiently, and what is working is leveraged. Set up a regular process to reflect on key measurables for you, your team and business. You can get started with the following four steps:
- Conduct an annual 360-degree self-assessment.
- Create a scorecard to measure daily and weekly goals.
- Join a mastermind or business group. Surround yourself with other leaders who know you and are willing to give you feedback on how you can take your leadership to the next level.
- Working with a coach, mentor or adviser. They will help you understand yourself and your blind spots. I believe great leaders are always willing to set aside their egos and understand there are always more ways to develop themselves, their teams and their work.
- Shadow the innovative: Watch other innovators — and try things.
- From my perspective, early adopters of innovative methods are willing to weather the pitfalls and wins of exploring to discover new inventions and technologies. Leaders need early adopters around them to help them see innovation.
- Find these people. Spend time with them, and ask questions, such as: What are they trying, noticing and liking? What is saving them time and energy? What seems to be getting traction and earning a place in the market?
- They are not afraid of what’s new and have already been trying things out. Learn from their learning. In my experience, they will tell you what they are studying, following and trying. Pick a few innovative ideas that seem like “no brainers” for them, and implement them. Some things might flop, but the opportunity is that these people will give you a leg up on new technologies, industries, systems and concepts, so you don’t have to discover or search them out yourself. Let their strengths inform your innovation workout.
- Synergize: Brainstorm with a mastermind or think tank group.
- Brainstorming with a group is a great way to expand your perspective and increase input with different strengths and mindsets. With a group, you are able to develop an idea, solve a problem and discern what actions to take. Fresh perspectives can help you take your vision and ideas to the next level. Spend time and energy with like-minded and positive people. By working with successful peers, you’re able to learn skills for growth, observe efficient habits and implement techniques that help you and your business grow.
- Innovation is a mindset. Employing some of the above five keys can condition your mind for new, different and expanded thinking. Start practicing these tips today, and you’ll enjoy a stronger innovative mind.