Turn off your smart phone. Shut down your e-mail (or at least turn off the ping noise that sounds when you get a message). Put on something comfy. Squirrel yourself away with your laptop in tow where nobody, I mean nobody, can disturb you, because this is your time to make a date to innovate. This is my fourth installment on innovation. (You can find the first here, the second here and the third here.) For those who have just joined us, we have covered how to be spontaneous, how to be bold and how to create a culture — all centering around innovation — and now we are about to tackle how to get turned on to innovation in the first place. We will help rev you up by sharing a couple of favorite places that refresh our minds and are guaranteed to get your creative juices flowing to prepare you to do your best innovative work ever.
Date #1: IDEO
If there was only one company in the world I could choose to work with on innovation, I’d choose, hands down, IDEO, a leading global design and innovation consulting firm that helps design products, services, environments, and digital experiences.
What makes them so good? The company’s work speaks for itself, but what impresses me the most is their willingness to share unlimited, fresh proprietary design knowledge with the world. As a result of how effectively IDEO openly shares its work, I installed the same knowledge-sharing practice through my own business, further increasing our stature and the number of people who get turned on to our expertise.
So make a date with IDEO at The Ten Faces of Innovation, get background information on IDEO, and visit my personal favorite "thinking" page for ideas galore, and my second favorite, IDEO Labs.
Date #2: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
“Studying creativity is not an elite distraction, but provides one of the most exciting models for living.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
IDEO’s information should be enough to inspire you to take action on innovation but let’s make a second date. Besides, aren’t we in the courting stage to get you to fall in love with innovation? On the topic of creativity and innovation, it would not be prudent if we did not bring Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi into the picture. He’ll be our second date for understanding how to prepare yourself and your business for breakthrough innovation.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is considered the leading researcher on positive psychology. His areas of interest and expertise are in creativity and innovation and managing flow. He once said, "Repression is not the way to virtue. When people restrain themselves out of fear, their lives are by necessity diminished. Only through freely chosen discipline can life be enjoyed and still kept within the bounds of reason."
In his most popular work, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” Csikszentmihalyi outlines his theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow — a state of total concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. According to the Wikipedia entry on Csikszentmihalyi, the idea of flow is identical to the feeling of being "in the zone" or "in the groove." The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing. This is a feeling everyone has at times, characterized by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment and skill — and a time during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored.
It’s nearly impossible to get to or reach any breakthrough on innovation without Csikszentmihalyi’s flow going on. Make your date to innovate (and get into the flow!) with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Start at Wired magazine where he is interviewed, read his book, “Flow,” and check out this piece at Brain Channels Thinker of the Year.
Date #3: Chip and Dan Heath
Turning ideas into transformative products, services, environments and experiences cannot happen without lots of listening, focus, discipline and a little luck. But why some ideas survive and others die is helpful to understand so you can shift into high gear with innovation. The Heath brothers, Chip and Dan, are experts in this area, which they explored not in their latest book, “Switch,” but in an earlier book that I absolutely loved called “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die."
The book delves into what makes an idea or concept memorable or interesting with a number of stories and case studies followed by principles. The stories range from business to inspiring personal accounts. Each chapter includes a section titled "Clinic,” in which the principles of the chapter are applied to a specific case study or idea to demonstrate the principle's application.
So make your date with the Heath brothers by reading their book, visiting their personal website and reading their article over at Fast Company, “Don’t Solve Problems – Copy Success.” If IDEO and Csikszentmihalyi don’t quite cut it on opening your mind to innovation, perhaps the Heath brothers can do the trick.
Date #4: Google
Exploring innovation without including a look at Google is like, well, exploring an online search engine without mentioning Google! If Google had a second name, it would be innovation because that’s what they stand for. Just take a look: Google.org, Google News, Google Groups, Google Earth, Google Translate, Google Labs and more. Whenever I want to overcome brain drain or lack of innovation for long stretches of time (usually caused by fatigue or the challenges of running a business), I revisit Google to remind myself that good ideas can come from anywhere at anytime and can leave a legacy. You just need to hit the refresh button, imagine and innovate! Make your date with Google by exploring all the previously mentioned links, and get inspired. Start listening to people, throwing ideas around openly, figuring out which ones are good and which should be tossed out for another lifetime and get going: Innovate like there is no tomorrow. It starts with YOU and reverberates outward to where the needs are in the marketplace.
Date #5: TED
Some ideas are worth spreading, and this one definitely is so I’ll toss it out to you to keep it growing. TED (technology, entertainment, design) is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading great ideas, and innovation is a huge part of what they are all about. At TED, you will find some of the world’s best talks and performances. Their slogan: "Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world." Notice how, in covering innovation, we get back to that earlier notion of knowledge sharing? Explore some of the talks and you’ll find innovation at your doorstep. If not that close, close enough at and the TED Blog.
With technology, innovation is easy. If you want to be a fast innovator, don’t wait for it to happen, make it happen by making a date (any of the above should work) with innovation. That way, you can drive growth within your organization and continue inventing the future.
* * * * *About the Author: Global business expert Laurel Delaney is the founder of GlobeTrade.com (a Global TradeSource, Ltd. company). She also is the creator of “Borderbuster,” an e-newsletter, and The Global Small Business Blog, all highly regarded for their global small business coverage. You can reach Delaney at ldelaney @ globetrade dot com or follow her on Twitter @LaurelDelaney.