Innovation is one hell of a hot buzz word these days. Everyday we hear a lot of talk about technological, social or business innovation. There is this felt need of innovating our social and organizational practices together with our technology and business processes so as to meet the demands of a fast-changing world. Not less pressing is the continuous struggle to narrow the void of an increasingly uncertain future.
Innovation is really about changing and tweaking something to make it behave or work in a different new way. It involves the input of creative thinking since it’s about looking at old things in new perspectives. It requires getting out of the old mold and break patterns of habitual thinking so as to reveal a fresh new outlook on everyday things.
Sometimes we are stuck into looking at something in a set way. It can be the way we go about a particular task or problem. It becomes a ‘given’ that we unquestionably assume it’s just the way things are. A fresh new perspective can give it a whole new meaning and to our own amazement we realize there is a better way of dealing with it we never imagined could be possible.
Yet we always tend to think about innovation in terms of changing something in the world around us. How about innovating ourselves? Would that be a teasing thought? I think so.
I have a gut feeling that women can be more receptive to this. The reason is that women tend to have more self-motivation to go through regular ‘make-overs’ like changing their hairstyle and general look, revamp their wardrobe, re-decorate their living space and re-design other things in their immediate physical and social environment. On the other hand we men tend to go through such ‘make-overs’ as frequent as celestial alignments of an inter-galactic scale.
Truth being said, it however remains doubtful whether change in appearance can count as genuine innovation – although it’s a start nonetheless.
Here are a few of my own ideas on how we can truly innovate ourselves and keep a fresh stand on our ever-changing lives.
1. Observe and be conscious of recurring patterns of behavior that have been with you since you were a child. Lately I’m getting more conscious of this. Did you ever notice that there are some traits, like a behavioral response to a situation or a mental predisposition that could be traced back many years as long as you can remember? The weary side of it is that there are many patterns of behavior which determine us throughout our life – most of which unconsciously. The upside is that you can be conscious of them if you will and reprogram them. Easy said but doable nonetheless. Awareness is the first and greatest step forward.
2. Embrace the habit of change and novelty. Fear of change is the greatest inhibitor of any form of innovation. Fear causes resistance and immobilization. Install the habit of changing minor patterns first. As an example I was walking down a favorite walking path in the countryside a few weekends ago which I have been going to occassionally for some years. Upon entering the usual path, a spontaneous idea sparked of taking the other path at the bifurcation – something I never really done before out of habit. This is a small pattern change. Habit will lead you to bigger and bigger ones such as the ones in the previous point.
3. Play with the idea of innovating yourself. How would you like yourself to be? More creative? Young spirited? a better communicator? a tech-savvy, trend-conscious forward-thinker?
4. Let the idea of a new you sink in. This is what many refer to as an ‘incubation’ process where the seed of a new idea starts forming. An other way of saying to give some time and space for the idea to settle in.
5. Start considering new ways of thinking. Before taking a decision, think of whether you were following old patterns of thought. Here is one method from Edward De Bono. The method is called APC (alternative, possibilities, choices). It’s basically a brainstorming exercise where you look at a given issue or problem and start spooling out different alternatives, possibilities (even crazy ones) and eventually considering different choices. May sound foolishly simple but an effective method for directing our minds ‘outside of the box’.
6. It’s not whether others see you differently but whether YOU see yourself differently. And this points at why changing your wardrobe might not result in innovating yourself. Others might see a ‘new you’ but do you? or do you see yourself in the same way? And this takes us to the next point.
7. Start talking to yourself differently. In previous posts I have frequently made reference to positive self-talk as an effective self-development tool. It comes in very handy in this context too. If you haven’t yet noticed (quite unlikely) you talk to yourself all the time. There is that internal commentary ‘in your head’ that never shuts up. Yet the language and metaphors we sometimes use can determine whether we build up the right attitude to succeed in something or sabotage ourselves in defeat and surrender. If our ‘self-talk’ contributes a lot to our self-image, then changing the way we talk to ourselves means changing our self-image, hence ultimately innovating ourselves. Can you think of ways to talk differently to yourself? I might come up with a future post on this.
8. Use your internal resources creatively. We all have something we are good at. Something which makes us stand out even if not in the most obvious or conspicuous ways. It might be that you are good at seeing the big picture or spot the slightest detail. It might be you can catch a new language very quickly or have good interpersonal skills. You might be a good organizer or a group motivator. Whatever it is that shines in you, try to nurture it more and start using it for something outside the habitual parameters. Expand it and use it creatively.
9. Focus your energies on the future not the past. Innovative people don’t stick around much in the past. They prefer keeping their eye on the future – in particular anticipating the future through innovating something in the present. We often tie ourselves and our self-image to our past. We tag our identity to our life history – the story of ourselves. To innovate yourself you need to project yourself forward and place yourself where you want to be in the future with enthusiasm and positive expectations.