What sounds more fun? Filling in spreadsheets with data for eight hours or coming up with new and exciting ideas? I’ll go ahead and assume you went with option two. The opportunity to innovate is something most of us want more of in our daily work lives. Yet often, we feel we can’t be more creative at work because of factors beyond our control.
Perhaps your company is risk-averse and likes to play it safe, perhaps your targets are intimidatingly aggressive, or perhaps the sheer size of your to-do list makes adding anything new feel impossible. While a lot of these may be true, there are also some tips and tricks almost anyone can adopt to keep your innovation muscles strong and ready to go. And like any muscle group, the more you practice it, the stronger, better, and more unstoppable it becomes. Here are 10 things you can do on the job to make it easier to be more innovative every single day.
Your entire energy changes when you’re standing. Unsurprisingly, the entire energy of a meeting does, too.
– John Doe
Convert one of your meetings to a standing one and watch the momentum, enthusiasm, and action soar. They’ll move faster and be more action-orientated and more likely to motivate your team. Need help convincing your boss? Throw this article on the benefits his or her way.
Whenever you see something from the big wide world that captures your attention, put it on display. It can be any discovery: an awesome ad in a magazine, an unusually arranged menu, or even a well-written email that made you laugh. The more provocative, the better! If you have space on a wall near you, eke out a spot where you can display everything.
Innovation rarely happens in a vacuum. Pick a colleague you feel comfortable with with and make yourselves accountable to each other. Encourage him or her to keep trying new things, whether it’s trying a new place for lunch, pitching an idea in an unorthodox manner, sharing articles that inspire, or just doing some old-fashioned brainstorming. It’s better—and easier—together. We often think that ideas must always be big, transformative, and game-changing. But often, it’s lots of small, novel things that add up to make a huge difference. The benefits to small-scale innovation are huge.
Not only do they happen quickly and (most often) without a lot of fuss, they also garner the interest and attention
– John Doe
We all have things we do with our eyes shut. It’s part of what makes us excel at our jobs, but also part of what blinds us to opportunities. Over the course of the day, identify all the tasks you do without thinking. Take a moment to talk about how you could do them differently. Sometimes it won’t work (spell check might always be the best way to proofread your work). However, it will often lead you to find a new way of doing the same old thing.
Stop talking and start building! Put your thoughts into words, your words into pictures, and your pictures into prototypes. When people can see your idea, they’re less likely to forget it and much more likely to take it seriously and become involved in its development and bullet-proofing. Even a bad drawing is better than no drawing.
Though it may sound counterintuitive, having constraints and parameters actually inspire innovation by forcing you to think dynamically and creatively. As an exercise, start banning things and exploring the implications. Ban words, ban resources, ban your primary target market, ban your default communication tools, and watch your creativity take off. Often, the ideas you settle on will likely be watered down versions of your initial suggestions, but the point of this exercise is to spark new thoughts on how to do the same old things.
Make a habit of stepping outside even if it’s just to walk around the block.
– John Doe
As you stroll, make a point to notice things. If you need some discipline on your inspiration hunt, make a game of it and deliberately hunt for things that begin with the letter A on the first day, B the second, and so on. Your mind will start connecting dots between what you see and the problems you left back at the office. That’s the beauty of our subconscious.
For too many of us, checking our phone is the first thing we do each day. Feed your mind with creativity instead of diving into the email deluge (that can wait). Pick your favorite song, podcast, or blog to kick-start the morning. Whatever it is, make sure it fuels your imagination. You’ll be amazed how much it will inspire your attitude and creativity throughout the day.
For too many of us, checking our phone is the first thing we do each day. Feed your mind with creativity instead of diving into the email deluge (that can wait). Pick your favorite song, podcast, or blog to kick-start the morning. Whatever it is, make sure it fuels your imagination. You’ll be amazed how much it will inspire your attitude and creativity throughout the day. These tricks may seem trivial, but together they force you to see the world in a new way. And that’s what innovation is all about—seeing opportunity where no one else can.
The more you practice these, the more easily it will become your default way of thinking
– John Doe
As a final thought, remember that committing to innovation is a brave thing to do. Your actions will likely inspire others on your team to join. There will be days when it feels like too much to take on, but drum up your inner warrior and keep going. And remember that persistence beats resistance.
Artist and writer William Morris once said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I whispered these words to myself one warm May morning as I hauled boxes of my belongings into my uncle’s basement. He had generously offered to store 95 percent of what I owned.
Although I am not a packrat, I did value many of my more sentimental possessions, such as boxes of letters and photographs, keepsakes and treasures from my travels, as well as my artwork and supplies. I pared down what I could, but still ended up with a couple carloads of stuff. Then Kyle and I set out on our one-way road trip with the vague idea of moving to my hometown in Northern California. Beyond that, we had no concrete plans. It was a liberating and unnerving sensation.
The frustration and anxiety I’d felt over the preceding weeks of delay seemed to dissolve with every mile traveled.
– John Doe
We felt free with few plans and few possessions. Our wanderings were guided by a collaborative project called The Free Dwellers. Our plan was to interview individuals and families living alternative, ecologically-minded lifestyles. We were enchanted with the radical notion of living simply, purging material possessions and reconnecting with nature.
Before heading west, we did a 10-day mini trip through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine in order to evaluate our supplies. As we learned to operate in our new mini home, we were forced to ask, “What could we do without? What could serve multiple uses?”
The first thing that needed to go was the camper’s original shaggy, red carpeting. It was old and worn, and we knew it’d be a nightmare to keep clean. After tearing it out, we installed birch plywood flooring, which was a breeze to sweep. We quickly ditched a small trunk we initially thought would both provide storage and serve as a table. Instead, we found ourselves maneuvering around it more than using it. After that, we used stumps as table tops. We switched from full-sized pots and pans to our compact titanium cook set previously used only for backpacking.
An 18-pocket shoe caddy on the inside of the bathroom door provided organization for odds and ends
– John Doe
Kyle and I each had a plastic trunk to hold our clothes, which sat atop the camper benches while driving. We made do with small amounts of everything: two forks, one set of sheets and a few pairs of underwear. Our four months on the road were a concentrated lesson in adaptability, an important skill for all realms of life. I explored the edges of my capabilities and learned the difference between my needs and my desires.