The words “innovation” and “creativity” are used nowadays far too often. In every second job advertisement, candidates are required to be creative and every second company boasts that it is an innovator in its industry. Parents are expected to play creatively with their children and even municipal offices and small cultural centers are already innovative. It seems that these are now some of the most hackneyed terms, which through constant repetition have been deprived of their proper, deep meaning. After all, it’s not as if everyone around us is bursting with creativity and every day brings thousands of revolutionary ideas that – rapidly implemented by agile organizations – radically change the world.
The modern world regularly checks up on us. It poses increasingly complex challenges and requires immediate reactions. They concern almost every area of life and activity. In shifting environment, the ability to think outside the box and search for solutions in seemingly very distant areas is particularly important and necessary.
Three steps back
Various myths have grown up around the phenomenon of creativity. Many people are convinced that it is an innate quality. Others believe that the best ideas are born by accident and are like unexpected flashes and dazzles. Or that they are the result of coincidence. Although history has proven the opposite repeatedly, this perception of creativity holds good. To properly build and develop skills embedded around innovation, it is essential to change this belief system. Only the correct perception of the phenomenon allows for its optimal development. It is therefore time to abandon mythical thinking in favor of methodical use of specific skills and their improvement.
Fixed vs. developmental mindset of interests
Researchers have found that innovation is significantly influenced by how individuals view interests. Those who see them as something that can be developed, are developmentally oriented – have more integrative ideas and are much more likely to create concepts that combine distant fields. On the other hand, those people who have a fixed attitude to interests – they claim that they should be found and stick to them – are much more likely to think in a traditional and quite schematic way. When looking for solutions, they move within their close areas. This conclusion of the scientists is an encouragement to develop interdisciplinary education, which allows to extend knowledge from different fields and integrate it.
Innovation is a way of thinking
We often think about innovation in a technological context. Yes, technologies are important, but the point of innovation is to overturn a way of thinking. Technologies are either a tool to achieve its effects or the fruit of thinking. What are the characteristics of an innovative mindset? People with this mindset play with whatever comes their way. They are open, curious, do not reject anything, do not limit themselves with anything. In their minds everything is possible and there are no limits. They go off the beaten paths in favor of going where no one has gone before. They easily look at an issue from different perspectives and ask a lot of questions. They are full of energy and commitment. There are no problems for them, only opportunities and possibilities.
For an organization to be innovative, it needs people on board who challenge the status quo and whose visions have momentum. The business itself needs to be open to change, to act quickly and boldly. It is hugely important to recognize that the pursuit of innovation carries the risk of failure. However, it is an inherent part of the whole process and should be approached as such. The key to success is collaboration – even the most brilliant ideas will not move the organization forward if there is no will between individuals and teams to work together to refine the concept. The worst thing for an organization is to get stuck watching the back of the competition. In the end, it’s not about surviving, it’s about setting the direction.
Managing innovative thinking wisely
In order for the right people to fully unleash and realize their creative potential, wise management of the organization is essential. Mok O’Keeffe, who has been working in this area for years, stresses the importance of developing people and processes in a business’ quest for innovation. He says it is essential to equip employees with the right competencies and confidence, and leaders with the right strategies and tools. It is also important to ensure that team and project managers are effectively inspired to enable and reward creativity. Good communication, building commitment, promoting flexibility, and creating space to freely explore and implement innovative solutions are also the key.
Peter H. Diamandis and his Moonshot Mindset proposes a complete change of the rules of the game. The author of this concept provokes, pits, and continually asks leaders: what if you aimed to grow 10 times bigger than before? Not 10% greater, but 10 times greater. He points out that many companies are focused on increasing profits or reducing costs by 10%. This perspective immediately lowers the bar, pulls the organization into a process of ongoing competition with other companies in the industry, and stifles potential breakthrough ideas. An innovative Moonshot Mindset approach to problems, challenges and difficulties changes the perspective right from the start and conditions an entirely different process of thinking and finding solutions. It brings surprising ideas and brings the best people around the project. Moreover, 10-fold improvement of some area does not mean that it will be proportionally more difficult to achieve. Most often, it is many times more profitable and only slightly more challenging. One of the examples of this type of thinking and acting is Elon Musk, who already reaches not only the moon, but also Mars.