If you want to innovate in your work, you’ll have to do more than simply have bright ideas. At least, that’s according to research by Harvard Business School alum Clayton Christensen, Jeffrey Dyer of Brigham Young University, and Hal Gregersen of INSEAD. From their research, Bruce Upbin gives us the five traits of highly innovative leaders, defining characteristics of leaders like Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs.
- Questioning, which allows innovators to challenge the status quo and consider new possibilities.
- Observing, which helps innovators detect small behavioral details — in the activities of customers, suppliers, and other companies – that suggest new ways of doing things.
- Networking, which permits innovators to gain radically different perspectives from individuals with diverse backgrounds.
- Experimenting, which prompts innovators to relentlessly try out new experiences, take things apart, and test new ideas.
- Associational Thinking, drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields, which is triggered by questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting and is the catalyst for creativity.
Read all about the research behind these traits, and catch an exclusive video interview with researchers Dryer and Gregersen, over on Forbes.com.
If you’re struggling to feel motivated, using tricks or treats may be all you need to get the momentum going again. Illustrator James Victore swears by the unique approach to getting unstuck:
The first step of getting motivated: identify the type of motivation problem you’re having. Are you not motivated by the work itself (such as it doesn’t excite you) or are you lacking internal motivation (like a lack of energy because you didn’t sleep well last night)?
Once you know the type of motivation problem you’re having, you can motivate yourself with tricks like forcing yourself to work for one hour by using a stop watch, or promising a co-worker or peer that you’ll get something done in the next 30 minutes. Anything that can “trick” you into getting started on the work.
Alternatively, the treats approach is just that — a literal treat. If you make progress on (or finish) the work, reward yourself with something you’ve been wanting for a long time.
We’ve all been there. Attended an exhilarating conference, met fascinating people and left charged… Only to get back home, feeling overwhelmed, pulled quickly back into our day-to-day, to the point that we don’t follow-up or follow-through to maximize our conference experience.
On Linkedin Pulse, Nedko Nedkov offers strategies for acting on the learning that takes place at conferences. He suggests:
Before you leave the conference there’s two things you need to do. One, is schedule a 30 minutes meeting with your team for the very first day when you arrive back in the office. The second is schedule a one hour slot for yourself either on the very first day or the very next day when you get back.
During the team meeting, Nedkov suggests a conference debrief of what was learned and what’s to come, including any assignments. During your personal one-on-one, he suggests that you go through any conference notes and start identifying to-dos and what’s next.
The intentionality of sharing and considering what you learned and turning that knowledge into action can possibly make the difference between harnessing that electric energy that we feel after an awesome conference and feeling guilty that we did nothing.
Projects fail all the time. Rather than wait for an ugly postmortem that often follows, why not try to help avert real failures before they happen by playing devil’s advocate.
In an interview with The McKinsey Quarterly, psychologist Gary Klein advocates for the use of what he calls a “premortem” in the planning phase, a concept he first introduced on HBR:
Before a project starts, we should say, “We’re looking in a crystal ball, and this project has failed; it’s a fiasco. Now, everybody, take two minutes and write down all the reasons why you think the project failed.”
By making it safe for resistors to voice their concerns during the planning phase, you can improve your project’s chance for success.
Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project conducted what he calls The Energy Audit with 160 bank executives and discovered a series of startling things which further supported his theory that we’re all experiencing an under-recognized personal energy crisis:
Energy, after all, is the capacity to do work. In the face of relentlessly rising demand, fuelled by digital technology and the expectation of instant 24/7 responsiveness, employees around the world are increasingly burning down their energy reserves and depleting their capacity.
Tony urges us to think of our energy as divided into four layers:
Your physical energy – how healthy are you?
Your emotional energy – how happy are you?
Your mental energy – how well can you focus on something?
Your spiritual energy – why are you doing all of this? What is your purpose?
Building up all four of these elements for a greater capacity of physical energy will build the base for getting better at whatever it is you want to improve.
Trying to nail down a great idea in a large group of intelligent individuals can be unwise. For every reason to go forward with an idea, someone will think of a reason not to. By overanalyzing the concept, any progress gets paralyzed.
In advertising communicator George Lois’ book Damn Good Advice, he tells creatives to avoid collaboration with large teams until after you have your big idea:
The accepted system for the creation of innovative thinking in a democratic environment is to work cooperatively in a team like ambience. Don’t believe it… The greatest innovative thinker of our age remains Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, a modern-day Henry Ford. Jobs was not a consensus builder but a dictator who listened to his own intuitions, blessed with an astonishing aesthetic sense.
Lois says to trust your gut. Collaborate with a maximum of three people so decisions can be finalized. Once you have a solid idea, then use teamwork to bring the idea to life.
In an average supermarket, there are nearly 40,000 things that you have to ignore just to get to what you want. That’s 40,000 more things you have to ignore if you want to be productive, according to Daniel Levitin, whose book “The Organized Mind” Shane Parrish covers at Farnam Street blog:
‘Neuroscientists have discovered that unproductivity and loss of drive can result from decision overload…’ We have a limited number of decisions. There are only so many we can make in a day. Once we’ve hit that limit it doesn’t matter how important they are… ‘We can have trouble separating the trivial from the important, and all this information processing makes us tired.’
You’re likely familiar with the feeling of fatigue after facing a seemingly overwhelming number of decisions throughout the day. Between hundreds of tweets, Facebook status updates, emails, texts, requests from friends and co-workers, etc., mental fatigue is common for many of us.
Fortunately there’s a way to calm the storm and re-energize our brains. As Parrish explains from Levitin’s research, the more we understand about where we allow our attention to go, and what we deem as important in our daily routine, the more our ability to control our decision-making strengthens. To avoid mental fatigue, we need to prioritize our values, relying on our own mental abilities to ignore what simply doesn’t matter. Writing down a daily goal, taking time to meditate on what’s important, or even keeping a journal, are all examples of what we can do to ensure we stay mentally fit.