In recent years, many innovation officers and managers, experts, consultants, and courses, as well as endless content, have focused on how to embrace and promote innovation.
These methodologies offer great insights but you should start at the basics.
Forget most of what the innovation experts have to say. I want to share, from my experience, tips on how to engage in innovation as an integral part of your day-to-day work.
Tip 1 - Engage in tactics, think strategy
Many companies appoint a person or team to lead innovation. This is wrong. Don’t place the responsibility only on a director of innovation or any other such role.
Instead, use a hands-on approach, dealing with ongoing tasks and deliveries. Discover the tactics of users, data, development, sales, and the market. This is the best way to understand your users’ motivations and the actual assets that you have. Innovation will naturally follow.
In other words, you can’t really understand what makes your users act and what makes the market tick if you don’t deal with the daily specifics. You can’t really know which aspects of your product and/or technology are actually unique and which parts create substantial value, unless you directly engage.
Tip 2 - Team diversity
I hear my colleagues saying that they will interview only candidates who have years of experience in our industry. This is wrong. The more diverse your team is in terms of culture, education, and background, the more creative, motivated, and synergetic it will be.
A range of expertise will expand the overall scope of your solutions. It allows you to benefit from the knowledge and experience of other domains. For example, working on a consumer app from the perspective of a background in networking will lead to superb performance.
Fill your team with people who have a mixed background in terms of technology, platforms (desktop, mobile), types of users, and types of solutions. People working in a new domain also tend to be more motivated and creative.
Tip 3 - Think & plan annually, act daily
Structure your mindset, and that of your team, toward delivering on innovation. I do it by setting annual goals that represent new product domains, new business models, and/or new audiences.
For example, “deliver a data product” or “tap into the workflow of…” or “migrate to … pricing model”.
I start every day (after I’m done with the daily standup meeting) by looking again at my annual goals. Then I update my daily goals and ensure that my weekly and monthly goals include elements of the annual ones.
This way, I ensure that, every week, I pursue the long-term goals that require innovation.
Tip 4 - Load yourself by offloading your official job
People tend to think that if they’re overloaded, they need to handle fewer tasks and be more focused. This is true. However, to offload pressure from your brain and motivate it to be creative, you actually need to “overload” it with a wide variety of activities and topics.
The best advice I can give you is to take a side project or job, a voluntary responsibility, and/or help others with what you are good at. You’ll benefit in two ways. First, you will be very focused on what matters the most in your daily activities. Second, you will discover new directions for thinking and will generate creativity.
It’s like magic. Suddenly, the urgent, ongoing matters won’t put so much pressure on you and ideas will start to float.
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Gal Ofel is an experienced product innovation manager, marketer and entrepreneur. Recently, Gal founded and launched Zoostr, the mobile and desktop solution for entrepreneurs.