No culture can be innovative without great people. Scientific, social, educational , technical innovations play an important role in the life of most states.
But while research organizations used to be able to hire lead scientists to work on a specific project, in today’s hectic competition for people with a wide variety of skill sets, this limited approach does not work.
The pandemic has changed the focus of thinking for most businesses. In 2021-2022, companies realized the value of innovation and began to hire people who are ready not only to perform their functions, but also to find non-standard approaches to resolving difficult situations.
These employees constantly strive to improve by carefully studying and observing what innovations appear in their field of activity, and then applying their observations and experience to solve problems that arise.
Is it possible to become such a person and what needs to be done to develop the ability to think innovatively? Let’s talk in this article.
What is innovative thinking?
Innovation is the process by which a product or service is updated by applying unique methods , techniques, or implementing successful ideas to create new value.
There are different types of innovation in business:
- Process improvement through continuous improvement and development of new solutions.
- Developing innovative products or improving the characteristics of existing ones.
- Creation and implementation of new services for clients and partners.
- Development of innovative business models and new revenue streams.
- Digitalization and digital transformation that require companies to rethink and develop non-standard approaches [ Technology Innovation Management Review, 2014 ].
Organizations have several options to improve their competitiveness: they can strive for price leadership or develop a strategy that distinguishes them from competitors. In both cases, they need an innovative approach [ Technology Innovation Management Review, 2014 ].
Companies that choose price leadership must ensure their long-term competitiveness by developing innovative, highly efficient processes. Optimization and continuous improvement in terms of costs are important to them.
Organizations pursuing a strategy of excellence need to innovate in order to develop unique distinguishing features from their competitors.
Innovation involves the improvement or replacement of something, such as a process, product, technology, or service. Continuous innovation is critical for all companies. The main difference lies in the direction of the innovation strategy, which varies considerably from company to company.
An innovation strategy is critical for companies because it enables them to innovate efficiently and purposefully. With its help, they determine what new products, services and processes need to be developed in the coming years.
The innovation strategy identifies strategically important themes and areas of innovation, as well as possible challenges and risks (for example, arising from digitalization and the associated digital transformation within the enterprise).
Although innovation has always been one of the driving forces of competition, studies show that the speed of its development has increased significantly in recent decades [ Technology Innovation Management Review, 2014 ].
Innovation requires companies to be highly creative, innovative, have a clear innovation strategy, and be willing to take risks. Innovative thinking is especially important for the successful implementation of such projects.
Innovative thinking is a creative thought process used to generate ideas and solutions. This is a complex task that involves finding new approaches to familiar problems or procedures.
Innovative thinking refers to the use of abilities and social skills to generate innovative solutions. People who develop this type of thinking tend to have the following traits and skills:
- An unorthodox approach to problem solving.
- Critical Thinking .
- Willingness to cooperate.
- Openness to new experience and knowledge.
- Creative approach and original look at familiar things [ Indeed, 2021 ].
Innovative thinking involves developing new and original ideas. With a non-standard approach to familiar issues, a person can develop solutions or find other ways to overcome a problem that no one has yet thought of. Creative thinking also requires a combination of analytical, organizational and communication skills to assess a situation and solve a problem [ Indeed, 2021 ].
Innovative thinking is very useful for any field of activity. It allows:
- To create the best solutions for everyday needs that deliver value to customers and businesses.
- Solve problems not only in work matters, but also in personal life.
- Increase the involvement of employees in work activities, which favorably affects the atmosphere in the company.
- To improve the quality of education due to the constant desire of a person to acquire new knowledge and study innovations.
- Improve communication and teamwork skills [ Rockcontent, 2020 ].
Companies need to keep their focus on innovation because they may need approaches that have never been created or applied before to solve most problems.
This is a very valuable skill for every person, and many modern enterprises are willing to pay high salaries to employees with a developed innovative mindset. After all, it is thanks to a non-standard approach to problems that all great products are created.
Development of the innovation environment
Culture is the basis for any innovative activity. If the corporate environment does not translate the right values, it can hinder innovation, even if the idea and the team are perfect [ LEAD Innovation Blog, 2018 ].
The innovation strategy is part of the corporate strategy. It should define all the activities and goals that the company wants to implement to develop innovative products, new lines of business and more efficient processes in the long term, and describe the necessary steps to achieve the goals [ McKinsey & Company, 2017 ].
Without a clear innovation strategy, companies risk losing focus on their core business. It helps them orient their activities towards the achievement of clearly defined and measurable goals.
A detailed innovation strategy helps you ask the right guiding questions in the idea generation process , determine the right evaluation criteria, and prioritize innovation projects according to specific goals.
The innovation strategy also contributes to the development of an innovation culture characterized by:
- openness and curiosity of employees;
- encouraging experimentation;
- innovation management;
- willingness to challenge complex tasks;
- willingness to take risks and learn from mistakes .
Companies developing an innovation strategy must answer key strategic questions, analyze future trends relevant to their business, keep an eye on hidden customer needs, and prepare a list of competencies they need to successfully innovate.
The innovation strategy creates the necessary focus for efficient use of resources. This is important because innovation always carries a higher risk than other activities. Accordingly, a clear innovation strategy reduces the number of failures.
To build a successful innovation culture , it is important to:
- Engage employees at different levels.
- Form interdepartmental teams to maximize the creative potential of all departments.
- Motivate employees.
- Develop and regularly update an innovation strategy, especially in times of digital change and upheaval.
We’ve put together some easy ways to boost your culture of innovation. They are simple because they can be implemented without special resources or major organizational changes. With the support of management, they can be safely implemented without any obstacles, thereby having a positive impact on the innovation culture.
Despite the fact that organizations have recently paid great attention to the development of an innovative environment, employees themselves cannot explain what this means for the company as a whole and for themselves, and what contribution they can make.
In such cases, management should conduct the necessary training that will fully reveal the meaning and significance of innovations for the organization. Team members should also be directly involved in working on innovative issues and developing new ideas and solutions in the form of creative workshops.
Each team member can at any time offer an idea to optimize the workflow. For the most effective of them, management should allocate a budget, as well as support in the form of resources (time, expert assistance, additional authority, training, etc.)
With the right approach, employees will be much more involved in the process of creating innovations. At the same time, it is important that their ideas are not criticized or forgotten. Otherwise, the effect of the activities carried out will decrease [ McKinsey & Company, 2015 ].
Innovative thinking is an important skill in today’s world. Employers give preference to candidates who are able to think creatively to offer business process solutions.
Many people usually associate creativity at work with artistic professions. However, most people can benefit from incorporating creativity into their workflows. Creativity development exercises can help them with this [ Indeed, 2021 ].
These exercises are useful both for improving group cohesion and for people interested in developing creative thinking. These are rewarding activities that employees across industries can use to improve their problem-solving and critical thinking skills [ Indeed, 2021 ].
Creative exercise has many benefits, including:
- Development of flexibility of thinking . High adaptability to constant changes in the external environment allows you not to dwell on old and inefficient processes, but to create new ones.
- Generation of new ideas. Creativity exercises help you find completely new solutions to recurring problems.
- Increasing motivation to perform work tasks. With enough practice, work tasks become something to look forward to demonstrating and improving your mental abilities, rather than a test to slow progress.
- Search for new solutions. Some exercises help develop creative vision, allowing you to look at objects, ideas, and problems in a new way. This is very useful when looking for a new solution for a serious business problem.
- Improved team communication. Creative tasks help individuals and entire groups improve collaboration skills such as communication, problem solving, and effective communication [ Indeed, 2021 ].
Innovation is a corporate value because it helps create a culture where every employee feels like they have a certain level of autonomy, are able to think independently, and find new ways to solve problems [ Talent Culture, 2019 ].
How to improve innovative thinking skills?
Many people mistakenly believe that creativity depends solely on a certain source of inspiration. On the contrary, it is a “by-product” of the consumption of all kinds of content, the ability to access various media and analyze problems in order to arrive at appropriate answers [ Indeed, 2021 ].
Improving creative thinking is an important part of life, no matter what field one works in. Every field needs people who can find the best solution to everyday problems that arise, and creativity is critical to this.
There is a certain algorithm for a non-standard solution to the problem:
- Gather all the necessary information. One of the most important steps in the creative thinking process is preparation. You can create a more effective solution when you gather all the information available.
- Consider the obvious solution. Given a simple solution, you can start shaping other options that may be less labor intensive or more financially viable.
- Come up with additional solutions. Take time to brainstorm to find as many new solutions or processes as possible.
- Make a list of your strongest ideas. Think about how these ideas might be related and what they have in common. This will help you form links between different ideas that will guide you as you develop your solution.
- Create a separate list of combined ideas. Consider similar ideas from different perspectives and discard those that are not related to others.
- Test the result. Testing the results will help you determine what aspects you can improve or change in order to find a successful solution.
People with innovative thinking can view an item or product from a unique perspective. The skills to approach goals and obstacles with innovative thinking can be developed at any age. To do this, it is enough to regularly perform a series of exercises and apply some techniques [ Rockcontent, 2020 ].
One of such effective ways to develop a non-standard approach to solving common problems is our TRIZ in Practice online program . In it, we have collected the best techniques and algorithms that will allow you to solve interesting problems not only in everyday life, but also in any other areas.
To start innovating in your life, use our tips.
Consume different content
Gather ideas everywhere. You can develop creative thinking if you diversify the content you consume in your daily life. Try visiting different blogs, channels, and social media profiles, preferably on topics you don’t normally have an interest in [ McKinsey & Company, 2015 ].
Try changing the format of the content you consume as well. Use different types of media like text, video, audio, e-books, podcasts, infographics and more. You need to develop observation so that in the future it is easy to distinguish between what you see has creative potential and what does not.
Follow the trends
Innovative thinking can depend on the trends that affect the market right now and those that will appear in the future.
Keeping up with fashion trends is not just about consuming news related to your area of interest. The ability to predict trends does not require the gift of clairvoyance. Instead, you just need to understand how your field of activity works and where innovations come from.
People who actively innovate recognize that ideas can come from any source and come in many forms [ Indeed, 2021 ]. Expand your knowledge through professional and personal development, look for opportunities to learn and improve your skills.
Try to create something new every day
If you want to lose weight, you will draw up a training plan and a nutrition program that will require you to make daily efforts. The same concept applies to creative thinking training.
Try to create something new every day. It doesn’t have to be something big or significant. It is enough to do something that you have never done or tried before. Imagine how your idea will look like in reality. And believe that you will be able to overcome all obstacles on the way to its realization.
Such creations can also serve as a solution to everyday problems that you face. The most important part of this process is to develop the habit of coming up with something new so that it becomes a natural state for you.
Go outside the box
Changing the way you work can also encourage you to think differently about your day-to-day processes. Creative people tend to be willing to try new things in order to gain more experience in different areas. So, for example, when performing a familiar task, try to develop at least one method that is different from your usual workplace habits.
By viewing your work from a different perspective, you can improve your creative thinking skills. You will soon find that you can do it much easier.
Break the rules. With traditional approaches and habitual methods, you are unlikely to succeed in the field of innovation. Constantly challenge existing rules and paradigms.
Learn to use failure
If you’ve never failed, chances are you haven’t created anything. Failure is inevitable when you invent something new, because there is always a certain degree of uncertainty in the process.
Many innovators believe that failure is the best learning tool. Surprisingly, when you calmly accept the possibility of error, your ability to think creatively increases. Understanding that failure can happen, but nothing terrible will happen to you, will allow you to deal with defeat more easily and not stop halfway.
Fear has been called the pest of innovation. Think of all failed attempts as a way to test an idea and move on to the next solution.
Connect with other people
Even a seasoned innovator needs a strong environment to discuss or reject new creative ideas and innovations. Almost all great projects have been created by teams of people who have come together to come up with something new.
At the moment, there are a large number of funds to promote innovation. In them you can not only draw interesting and inspiring ideas, but also make pleasant acquaintances. Celebrate innovative thinking in others. Learn their creative problem solving techniques and learn how they generate their ideas.
Try not to surround yourself with people who think and create exactly like you. Innovation requires a wide range of different competencies and ways of thinking. Strive for as much variety as possible when making new creative connections, as this can inspire you to create something new and out of the box.
Instead of looking for answers, try changing the types of questions you ask. Brainstorm and come up with a list of open- ended questions that can be asked to address the issue.
Many innovators take an existing object and ask questions to change its concept. So, Steve Jobs did not immediately come up with the idea of creating a smartphone. He just picked up the phone and asked a very simple question: “What can we do to improve it?” [ QS, 2021 ].
When thinking about creating or improving an object, ask yourself the following questions:
- What happens if I change this object?
- What would I change or improve about this property if I wanted to use it 10 years from now?
- What would I do if I had unlimited finance to improve it?
Good questions will help you not only find answers, but also help you think about how you could change your usual processes to increase your productivity.
Find time for creative thinking
In the development of innovative thinking, a certain time allotted for practice plays an important role. For example, Google’s management asks teams to dedicate at least 20% of their time to creative thinking or new projects [ Rockcontent, 2020 ].
This measure is very effective, on the one hand, for an innovative culture, as it demonstrates to all employees how important innovation is for the company, and on the other hand, it mobilizes a huge potential for development.
Take time to reflect on the solution to a given situation. It can be an hour a day or 2-3 times a week, but the main thing is that at this time you should only think about this problem, without being distracted by anything else.
There are no universal recipes for innovation, and each person must develop their own approach depending on their field of activity, interests, type of thinking, corporate culture, and even the team in which they participate.
Innovative thinking can bring great results not only to companies, but also to an individual. Keep this in mind every time you need to find a new solution to a problem.
Innovative thinking skills are techniques used to look at a problem from different and creative perspectives, using the right tools to assess it and develop a plan. They, like any skill, can be developed. We hope that our tools will help you with this. Good luck!