A Seven Step Program for Innovating RIGHT NOW!

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You can’t wait for permission to innovate – you’ll never get it.

You need to start changing things on your own – right now.

Here are three things I ran across this week that make this point.  First up, a great quote from artist Ron English – in the introduction to the special issue of Juxtapoz that he edited on the topic of politics and art:

Every time I do a lecture there is the inevitable question from a guy who is miffed that I don’t do anything to address the issue of our military’s use of uranium tipped war heads in Iraq, Monsanto’s ware on independent farmers, the Mayan apocalypse, or some other issue that they are deeply passionate about, and my usual reply is, “Why don’t YOU do something?” This is usually followed by “Well, I’m not an artist” or “I don’t have access to the media.” Got photoshop? Know where a Kinko’s is located? Know where a wall is? The thing is, nobody in this issue was born with a megaphone in their hand, and they didn’t wait for an invitation or an art degree to express themselves. I know a lot of people reading this are already out on the streets doing art and I just want to let you know your art can serve a higher purpose than advertising your own career. Art has been successfully used by liberators and dictators alike. It is a powerful tool that is in your possession.

It is a powerful tool that is in your possession.

Here’s an example from this issue – a remarkable piece from Molly Crabapple:

Innovation is a pretty powerful tool as well, and it is also in your possession.

Hugh MacLeod says that business needs more art, and he’s right – that’s one way to access the tool of innovation.  The second thing that crossed my path was this cartoon from Hugh’s daily newsletter:

It’s a tool that’s in your possession.

And then there’s this from Nilofer Merchant:

Not everyone will, but anyone can.

Innovation is a powerful tool, and it’s in your possession – so what do you do?

Here’s my prescription:

  1. Think about how much you can get away with – if you manage a budget, how much discretion to you have? If you don’t have a budget, what are the parts of your job that you control?
  2. Make a list of 10 things that you can do within the current scope of your work that will make things better for the people with whom you interact – customers, co-workers, bosses, whoever.
  3. Do those things.
  4. Figure out which ones worked, and do those more.
  5. Figure out which ones didn’t work, learn why not, then forget about them.
  6. Apply what you learned to the next set of ideas.
  7. Do it all again.
Focus on the ideas that went well – even if only one of them works, you just made your work a better place.

The point with this is to just get started with innovation. Try things that are cheap experiments. Learn from failures, amplify successes. Try a lot of ideas at once so that you don’t get too attached to them – if you only have one idea, the stakes are much higher, even for a cheap and quick experiment.  And remember what English says about serving a higher purpose – that’s just as important for innovation as it is for art.

That’s how you can start to get the future out of your head, and out into the world where it will do some good.

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Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

12 thoughts on “A Seven Step Program for Innovating RIGHT NOW!

  1. Two big takeaways from this article are the push to “just start innovating” and to not get attached to one idea. In order to make changes, you need to feel uncomfortable. If you’re not uncomfortable, chances are nothing is being modified (and you’re not really learning anything.) It’s much easier to keep the pace going once you are up and running. Additionally, I’ve always found that when you are deciding on your next step in life (ie a job to take, a school to attend, a marketing campaign direction, etc.), focusing most of your energy on one is always a bad move. Not only do you put all of your eggs in once basket by becoming attached to that objective, you naturally become more nervous about the prospect of not reaching this one goal, which in turn makes you less of a candidate than you actually are. When you have a number of ideas and prospects in the air, the true front runner will emerge, and it will emerge organically and with the best chance of success.

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