Are you stuck?
Symptoms vary. Along with lack of innovation, they include chronic inability to solve problems effectively, sort fresh ideas from stale ones, and envision new possibilities.
Having been stuck myself and watched others stand still, I can relate. "The half-life of an insight or of an innovation is short and getting shorter," Seth Godin tells us in Poke the Box. So, unimaginative thinking becomes more dangerous and prevalent. But mindsets that keep you from moving forward can be overcome. First, recognize the ways of thinking that are holding you captive. Then reorient yourself, and take action.
1. Your mission is critical to innovation
Without a clearly-defined mission, evaluating new ideas is impossible because there is no filter to determine relevancy. It causes you to default to appraising the value of a proposal by the polish of the presentation and conviction of the presenter, not its usefulness in realizing the dream.
Solution: Articulate your organization’s mission, its purpose, its raison d’être. Let mission drive decision-making and action-taking. Understand that one option is not inherently better or worse than another but more or less aligned with purpose.
2. Desire to obtain compliance
Your efforts are perpetually focused on promotion and persuasion in hopes that customers will act in accordance with your business plan. Traditional selling activities overshadow product development and customer service efforts.
Solution: Stop expecting customers to act in your self interest. Talk with your prospects and existing customers. Listen. Discover needs, uncover obstacles to interacting with your business and find what motivates customers to action. Create products, service models and experiences that mesh with market insights and real-life demand.
3. Don't believe superficial change is transformative
You have heard—more than once—that your business needs to keep up with trends in order to stay relevant. For a long while, you’ve resisted change for fear of alienating your core customer. But when performance slips, you realize that the needs and expectations of your customer are much different now than just a few years ago.
Hurriedly, you tweak your message, your product offerings and your service delivery method. Mistakenly, you believe that minor changes will transform your business.
Solution: Make a thorough and honest assessment of your organization. Recall feedback that customers offered before you realized that they wanted you to change. Compare your product designs, methods of interacting with customers, technology platforms, etc. to best practices in your industry. Then, formulate and implement a comprehensive plan to make changes and keep up with industry trends.
4. Understand that incremental change is transformative
You hesitate to modify operations, update technology, freshen brand image, etc. because you are waiting to make one humongous change.
Solution: Fine-tune your product, pitch, service delivery mode, etc. when you see areas for improvement. Smaller changes, over time, can help you to avoid having to make huge leaps all the time.
As you become accustomed to dealing with change, you become more and more discerning when evaluating opportunities and savvier when taking steps to introduce new ideas.
5. Consider ideas from those outside your inner circle
The uncomfortable truth is that innovative thinking may come from outside your familiar circle of trusted advisors. If you are stuck, they are likewise mired. They may see certain problems as temporary and make recommendations focused on superficial fixes rather than understanding of new realities.
Solution: Abandon the viewpoint that only those in your inner circle will take your organization to greater heights, especially if you are floundering now. Outsiders, including those on the periphery now and those new to your organization, can give fresh insights while insiders with domain knowledge can help with execution.
6. Quantity is NOT better than quality
You are extremely busy. Despite the high volume of work, though, profits are flat. Customers are becoming more and more demanding. As a result, you move from one crisis to the next, deftly solving problems but never feeling in control of your business.
Solution: Eliminate activities and revenue streams that are bogging you down, splitting your attention and failing to deliver profits—and causing the marketplace to see your business as nothing special.
Channel efforts to excelling in an area that your business can dominate.
Convey the message of niche expertise worthy of premium value, not a commodity competing on price with similar companies in your industry.
7. Distinguish between essential activities and outdated habits
You cling to standard modes of operations without separating essential activities aligned with mission and goals from outdated habits started years ago for reasons now forgotten. Activity is wasted on seemingly good but, in reality, unnecessary movement.
Solution: Review daily, weekly and monthly actions for relevancy to fulfilling purpose, demonstrating organizational values, and achieving goals. Eliminate what is no longer needed. Streamline through technology and process changes. Free time and release brainpower to generate ideas and pursue innovation.