Six Ways to Foster Innovation

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Gurbaksh Chahal
Written by Gurbaksh Chahal

Innovate! Do something new. Break new ground. The way that great companies grow and expand and become game-changing superstars is by creating something entirely different—or by building a better mousetrap.

No company can afford to stagnate. No company can become complacent. No company can be smug and self-satisfied.

Look what happened to Apple. It was on the verge of bankruptcy until Steve Jobs returned to the helm and famously declared, “The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting; the cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.” He went on to do just that and rightly be heralded by CNBC as the most innovative and transformative leader of the past 25 years.

Most company leaders, of course, talk about the need to foster innovation in their workforce. But how many really set the right example? How many are not only authentic personal innovators but also actively inspire innovation in their rock star team? How many develop a corporate culture where innovation is the norm?

It’s quite possible to foster innovation and out-of-the-box thinking in yourself and others. Here are six ways you can gain the confidence to become a charismatic, motivational, leader of innovators.

1. Alone Think

Does anyone ever truly take time to stop and think these days? Many people are so busy reacting to the barrage of texts and emails they receive and responding to phone calls and voicemails that having quiet time for reflection seems like an alien experience. I suggest you carve out some time every day for “alone think.” Taking the time for self-reflection allows your inner voice to be heard above the clamor of the day. It nourishes the subconscious mind and can switch on those light bulb moments. It allows the universe to speak to you alone.

2. Together Think

Most people call it brainstorming. But when a group of positive human beings get together and bounce ideas off each other…sensational things can happen. There’s a cosmic energy that surges through the gathering. It’s magical. It’s electrical. And it sparks innovation. It’s important for any organization to set specific time aside for its key people to think together. Involve people from different departments and with varied skill sets. And then see the explosion of creativity.

3. Take Risks

Go-getting innovators always push the envelope. They are willing to take chances. They are willing to fail because they know that each time they fail they learn something. And each time they fail takes them nearer to a success. They have the courage to experiment and to keep trying. And they encourage their key people to be just as fearless. They follow their heart and their intuition. They have a purpose in life. They dream big and astonish people who are scared of their own shadows. They defy the skeptics. But that’s why the innovators are the winners.

4. Be Curious

Ask questions—both of yourself and also of others. The inquiring mind explores new horizons, uncovers new truths, and finds different solutions to old and new challenges. The innovator has to have an open mind—a wide open mind. He has to be curious about everything and not settle for trite answers. He second-guesses himself and the rest of the team. He always wants to know more. He also wants diverse views from people who aren’t afraid to speak up and present contrary opinions, if necessary.

5. Encourage Controversy

Shake things up a bit. Disruptive, game-changing innovations often require stretching individuals to their limit. Be provocative.  You can’t afford to be super-polite all the time. Open people’s minds by throwing down the gauntlet to see them rise to the occasion. Constructively challenge concepts to take them to higher levels of performance. Demand the best and you will get the best.

6. Reward the Thinkers

There’s immense satisfaction in coming up with a breakthrough concept—whether by yourself or group activity. And it’s even more gratifying when the concept turns into concrete action. Everyone likes a pat on the back. So make a point of publicly acknowledging the input of employees who have spearheaded innovative business-building strategies. Present them with tangible rewards when you can and inspire them all the more.

Fostering the culture of innovation is easier said than done. But those company leaders who embrace it will always have a competitive edge. Along the way you’ll also find that the journey to innovation is a wonderful voyage of discovery that enhances the life experience of all who participate.  So, go for it.

As quoted from one of my favorite movies, “Don’t ever let somebody tell you… You can’t do something. Not even me. All right? You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.”

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