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You Might Be Killing Innovation With This One Sentence

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 9/03/2016 Tamara Kleinberg

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There is a common narrative out in the world that is killing innovation. A narrative that has somehow seeped into our collective consciousness.
The narrative states that being innovative is somehow a gift bestowed upon an exclusive group of people that look a certain way, and do certain things.
Usually, this narrative shows itself in sentences like these:
Me: Are you innovative?
Craig: Not really, but Jessie down the hall is. She has a pink streak in her hair and and works on the blue skies projects.
Jessie: I totally am, but the cube-dwelling suits on that side of the hallway totally lack imagination.
Do you find yourself thinking like Craig or Jessie? If so, you are not alone.
I can see how you'd buy into that way of thinking. I too used to think that if we all just acted like Jessie, we'd get into the innovative class. That's what the magazines would lead us to believe. Fortunately, my 20 plus years of experience, and work, in the field of innovation have blown my thinking, and that narrative, out the window.
Here's the real-world truth about innovation:
First, innovation isn't only about disruptive products and game-changing ideas. It's about thinking differently about the challenges and opportunities you face every moment, of every day. Creative problem solving, shifting perspectives and collecting and connecting dots to create new ideas and meaningful solutions.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, being innovative is universal, we can all do it, but how we innovative is unique to each of us. You, me, Craig, and Jessie are all innovative, you just have your own unique innovation style and hence, innovation shows up in different ways. No need for comparison, own your style of innovation,
Not convinced? Let me share two of my favorite examples that don't include Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. Yes, they are mavericks of innovation, and an inspiration to us all, but I am suggesting that innovation is in all of us, and it's just as inspiring.
In my 20s, I interviewed for a job at an innovation firm in NYC. I arrived to discover that the President was running 45-minutes behind schedule. Instead of letting me sit and wait on the uncomfortable vinyl bench in the lobby, Lisa, the office manager, came up with an on-the-spot process improvement. She decided to do an impromptu pre-interview with me, making me feel welcomed and giving the President the time he needed to put out the fires. Lisa chose to ignore the "what's always been done" option and find a meaningful solution. That's true innovation.
Last week I had a particularly early flight. As I was sitting there sipping my coffee, I noticed one of the Southwest employees waking people up to ask them if they were on the flight about to depart. It was so kind of him that I had to go over and ask him why he did it. His response surprised me. He said he does it because he finds that people often fall asleep at 5am. It causes delays in flights, as they spend 10-minutes calling for that missing passenger to board. Or, angry passengers that actually miss their flights because they slept through the boarding call. He said, "I guess I could let them sleep but I saw it as an opportunity to make everyone happy." A small shift in perspective led to a big leap in innovation, and happy passengers.
I hope at this point you are seeing how you are innovative. I bet if you kept a daily innovation journal, you'd find hot spots of innovation in your daily life, and in the lives of the people around you. Log every time you tackle a problem or opportunity differently.
Once you wake up to the fact that you too get to claim innovation, I want you to do one thing to continue to leverage your style of innovation:
Go To The Gym Of Innovation Daily.
The mind is like the body. In order to get strong you need to exercise the body, and the mind, regularly. Find times every day to flex those innovation muscles. Practice, sweat it out, train hard. The good news is that with every training, you'll get stronger, and being in a state of innovation will get easier. Like building and seeing muscles on your body, you'll start to build and see innovative thinking everywhere.
As someone that has spent several decades immersed in the world of innovation, I am excited to bring to you stories and tools to help you wake up to your ability to innovate and guide you through executing on those ideas.

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