What does it take to have a truly innovate idea? According to Threadless founder Jake Nickell, it always starts unnoticeably small. On Fast Company, Nickell shares the story of how his company recently created a small innovation that led to a huge impact, all by following a few simple rules:

DON’T FORCE IT
Don’t let the desire for an innovative component to a project become the square peg in a round hole. Make sure all pieces of a project, including innovative ones, support the company’s mission, and come to be in a fairly natural fashion. Don’t waste too much time mashing ideas to make them fit the framework.

HAVE FUN
Some of the best ideas come out of casual brainstorming sessions. Trying too hard to force a project to be innovative can be counterproductive, and slow the progression of a project–not to mention limit its potential.

BE OPEN-MINDED
Sometimes, innovative ideas don’t initially seem like the right ideas. It’s easy to dismiss an idea if the tie-in or benefit is not immediately apparent. Feel out and explore–but don’t force–these kinds of ideas, and value may be found where it was least expected.

Undoubtedly one of the most important tips Nickell offers here is not trying to force innovation. When it’s forced, the result of your efforts appear forced and dull. Taking a step back and remembering that innovation must occur naturally, through a sense of play and open-mindedness is the starting point to making it happen.

Read Nickell’s full story here on Fast Company.

RelatedThreadless: The Do-First Work Ethic

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