Innovation is everywhere. Everybody is talking about it, and everybody wants to do it. In this article, I will explain what innovation is, why to innovate and what skills will help you be more innovative than you are now. Let’s get started.
What is innovation?
There are obviously many definitions of innovation but there is one that I particularly like, and I think it is accurate. It comes from the book How Google Works. In the book, Eric Schmidt, Google CEO between 2001 and 2011 says that “innovation is something that the customers haven’t asked for”. He is saying that “if your customers are asking for it, you aren’t innovative; when you give them what they want you’re just responsive”. This description is an excellent and straightforward definition of innovation in my opinion. There are a few more requirements for innovation, however. According to the book, innovation is an idea, product or feature that is new, surprising and radically useful.
Once we all clear about what innovation is, it is time to ask a question - why innovate? This question is a no-brainer. Let me mention just a few reasons:
- to work more efficiently,
- to gain competitive advantage,
- to provide better products for clients,
- for fame and marketing,
- to make the work more interesting; it is much more interesting to design a car that drives itself than an ordinary car.
The list “why innovate” is long and if you want to achieve any of the above, innovation is an answer for you.
Skills & innovation
What skills do you need to be innovative? I don’t think that any particular skills are required to be innovative. Everybody has ideas. If you don’t believe you are a creative person with many ideas, think again. It is your lack of confidence holding you back. Your ideas are worth something. Many people say that they don’t have ideas or are not creative. What people actually mean when they say that, is that they don’t have confidence that their ideas are good enough to share them with the world. The first step in your way to be more innovative is to change this way of thinking and start believing more in your ideas and start sharing them with the world. You need to remember that not every idea will be great, but you will be amazed by how some of your ideas will change things for the better.
Once you start sharing your ideas with the world, it will be easier and easier for you to generate better ideas faster and in bigger numbers. Claudia and James Altucher in their book Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are The Currency Of The 21st Century call it the idea muscle. It is important to exercise this muscle every day, and if you do it your idea muscle will become stronger and warmed up and generating ideas will not be a problem for you.
Although there are no particular skills that are required to be innovative, there are certain skills that can help you become more innovative and creative and become an idea machine.
Let me mention a three that I consider being the most important skills that will help you to be more innovative.
1. Deep work
Deep work is a concept that Cal Newport talks about in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Deep work is an ability to focus with no distraction on a demanding task. A very rare skill these days according to the author. Working for 15 years in different companies I can only agree with him. Not only deep work can help you to be more creative and innovative, but no significant task can be done without deep work. Noise, distractions, email, are the biggest productivity killers. Deep work is a skill that everybody can learn, and once learned, it can revolutionise your life. Why? Most significant innovations and inventions have been created through this process. Eureka moments are very rare. Most groundbreaking discoveries are usually an effect of long hours of hard and deep work. Just to mention a light bulb invention or inventing a medicine for severe disease.
Knowledge is paramount when it comes to innovation. You need to be aware of what technology is available, what are the current trends in your industry, what’s new, what’s available so when you have a project you know what you can use. It will enable you to combine different ideas like puzzle pieces into something innovative, new and unique. Constantly work on your knowledge, learn new things so you don’t stay behind. You need to become a learning machine. It will significantly help you with innovation.
You will not get far with innovation if you are reactive. You must become proactive in everything you do. Think every day how you can improve yourself and things around you, be critical, question things, ask why, think what can you do better, what new tools and techniques are available and how you can utilise them to improve your life and life of the people around; constantly provide ideas.
Innovation is a hot subject these days and, although, you don’t need to innovate to succeed, being innovating can help you to achieve great success.
These three skills, deep work, knowledge and proactivity, if you learn them and apply them, can revolutionise not only your work life but also any other area of your life. So I highly recommend you to take a look and learn these three skills and work on your idea muscle very hard. It will help you to get your life to another level. Regardless of whether you have a job, or you are an entrepreneur. Everybody can become and can benefit from becoming an innovation machine.
What skills are important to be innovative in your opinion? I would be delighted to hear from you. Please add your suggestions in the comment section below.