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Updated 30 Sep 2020

Generating innovation

How to break free of stereotypes, misinformation and your fixation on the past in order to inspire innovative thinking in your company.

Entrepreneur Magazine, Michael Gerber, 02 April 2012  Share  0 comments  Print

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Here's a hard truth: You can't get your employees to innovate, to create, to think outside the box. So don't try. Because it will only lead to the same frustration, over and over again.

In fact, it's that very frustration - that blocked up feeling you get when you try to get your people to innovate, the way you're accustomed to doing it - where the opportunity lies.

The opportunity is for you, not your people, to break out of the box. The box you've built for yourself. The box of your expectations, your beliefs, your deeply ingrained behaviour when it comes to innovation.

In short, to break through your frustrations regarding innovation, you first need to learn how to become an innovative leader.

The lack of innovation in your company says more about you than it does about your people. It shows that you need to learn how to do what you want your people to do… to break free of misinformation, of stereotypes, of being fixated on the past. 

4 Steps to jump-start innovation

1. Identify a recurring, operational frustration in your company

These kinds of frustrations are easy to identify: Not enough cold calls are being made, conversion rates from sales calls are consistently unsatisfactory, people resent being asked to put in extra time and finding the 'right kind' of people is increasingly difficult. Once you pick one frustration then go to step two.

2. Secure a commitment from some of your people to eliminate that frustration forever

That's right. Some of your people, not all of your people. You're putting together a team. Talk to one, talk to two. Begin the conversation about this thing that's driving you crazy. See if they're interested.

If not, if they look bored, go to another person, and then another and another until you feel like you've got the requisite interest to get rid of this frustration forever. What is important at this step is that you're all committed to eliminating it, no matter what.

3. Come to agreement about the outcome

If there's no big-bang outcome, no passion generated to energise you and your team to make what you've decided to happen, happen, it simply won't happen. Because energy is what innovation is all about. Innovation takes energy. There also needs to be a result.

There needs to be something you will know happened because you can touch it, feel it, count it, see it, recognise it, know that it indeed has happened. It's got to be concrete. And it's got to be exciting.

4. Decide on a celebration

People love to celebrate things. So make sure you decide on a celebration; a rollout party to commemorate your commitment to the outcome. Make it something that people really, really will look forward to with tremendous excitement and anticipation.


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About the author

Entrepreneur Magazine, Michael Gerber

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