The problem with putting off creative thinking until the time is right is that this assumes creativity can only emerge when, and if, the barriers are overcome. But there will always be barriers, which means there will always be an excuse not to innovate.
So what can you do about it? Be continually innovative in spite of the barriers! Here are six ways to stimulate innovation and creativity in your business.
1. Be open and receptive to new ideas
How many times have you been told a great idea and before the giver can finish the sentence you stop them with “oh, yeah, I’ve tried that”, without seeing how their approach might be different or how things may have changed since you last tried it?
Being open to new ideas implies that every idea can be discussed, challenged and enhanced, regardless of its origin. New ideas can come from customers, suppliers, partners or many other sources. The idea is the hero, not the person.
Every idea that comes your way should be seriously considered, no matter who came up with it or how similar it seems to something you’ve tried before.
2. Continuously experiment
Progress requires a regular flow of new ideas that are then tested and experimented with. Just as soloists need to deal with work flow and cash flow, you also need to have an ideas flow. Write down every idea that comes to you, no matter how trivial or unlikely it seems at the time. You can later sift through these ideas to find the ones that are worth developing further.
3. Take risks and allow yourself to occasionally fail
Trying new ideas involves taking risks and not all of the ideas will work. But if you don’t take any risks at all, you pass up the chance of finding a great idea that might break new ground for your business. So to never fail could be a sign that you are not taking enough risks! This may sound counterintuitive, but how can you know whether your current approach is the best way unless you have tested it against different approaches?
4. Have fun
Fun is part of the journey of realising your largely untapped creative potential. This involves a broader definition of fun - it’s not just the fun you have at a party or down at the beach but also the fun of trying things, taking risks, pushing yourself and achieving goals.
5. Retain a focus on results
All the above are important points, but innovation should still be set against the backdrop of producing results including meeting deadlines and budgets, staying fit and healthy and leading a balanced life.
6. Operate on the edge of chaos
Do you work in an environment that allows you to tolerate and work within the tensions and paradoxes that surface? You can occasionally fail as part of a focus on results. You can have fun while being serious about your work and you can make room for innovation and creativity at the same time as running an efficient and productive business.
This article is adapted from Innovation Report 2007: What is the biggest barrier to innovation? Your Culture by Dr Ken Hudson and Kate Tribe. Email to be sent a PDF of the full report.
“ Every idea that comes your way should be seriously considered, no matter who came up with it or how similar it seems to something you’ve tried before. ”