5 Ways to Get Ready for Innovation in 2015

Innovation doesn't have to be confusing. Use these five techniques to prepare, and you will soon have more ideas than you can handle.

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Whether you're reading this in January or any other month, you know that it is time to make innovation happen. I suggest using the methods outlined in this article to ready yourself for innovation. You can gain some benefits implementing any idea from the list and gain even more from implementing all of the ideas.

For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.

- Margaret Heffernan

Clear The Way For Innovation

The stress you experience from constant overwork and crisis management limits your innovative capability. While I see some truth in the idea that extreme pressure yields innovative results, the longterm consequences of such high stress are unattractive. Let's set the foundation for innovative thinking!

1) Create Margin for Innovative Thinking: Put Innovation on Your Calendar

Last year, I learned about the concept of margin from author and entrepreneur Michael Hyatt. As he explains in How To Create More Margin In Your Life: "'Margin' is the space between our load and our limits ... It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations." Margin also means allocating time to the important rather than the urgent.

Start by putting one appointment on your calendar next week for 15 to 30 minutes to work on innovation. By adding it to our schedule, you make the likelihood of actually reaching success much higher. Not sure what to do during that time? The rest of this article provides suggestions.

2) Improve Your Social Environment by Seeking Out New People

I have recently been reading The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. As a longtime student of history and technology enthusiast, the book is a great read. Isaacson points out that most of the most successful innovators – such as those at IBM or Bell Labs – worked in groups or had access to groups of supportive people.

I recommend starting small. Look up your professional or business association and see what presentations are available. For example, I have learned a great deal from attending presentations offered by the Project Management Institute. You can also search through Meetup.com for events in your area and look for events organized by long established groups.

3) Eliminate One Recurring Activity

Recurring activities can easily eat up a great deal of time which could be spent on innovation. For example, you may be attending several meetings every week by habit. Ask yourself whether your attendance truly makes a difference. If there's no impact, eliminate the meeting. On the personal side, I also recommend automating part of your personal finances; automating the "pay yourself first" principle has saved time and grown my investments.

4) Attend One Conference To Gain New Ideas

Going to a conference remains one of the best ways to get new ideas. There are formal presentations where you can take notes. Even better, the informal gatherings in the hallways and nearby restaurants and bars can be even more valuable. In addition to ideas and information, you can also become more innovative by finding new projects to work on. (Not sure how to make the most of a conference? I suggest reading Conference Crushing by Tyler Wagner. This short Kindle book gives you everything you need to know.)

5) Read An Innovation Book

Innovation has been explored in several recent books. Here are a few titles to get you started. (I’ve read or am in the process of reading all of these books.)

  • Where Good Ideas Come From Paperback: The Natural History of Innovation, by Steven Johnson

Combining analysis with history, Johnson explains how innovation ideas often develop by combining existing ideas. You can start with a blank page but that's not the only way to be innovative.

  • The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO's Strategies for Defeating the Devil's Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization, by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman.

Apple is not the only company known for excellent design. This book explains how noted design firm IDEO develops new designs for its clients. Taking the viewpoint of the anthropologist when designing a service is one of the major insights I gleaned from this book.

  • The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, by Walter Isaacson

I discovered Isaacson through his excellent biography of Benjamin Franklin. His latest book provides a lively historical tour through the individuals and organizations that created our digital world. Finding other people to work with is a key part of successful innovation – that's a theme I see come up in the book over and over again.

That's it for today. In a few weeks, I’ll be back with the second article in this series – practical ways to experiment with innovation.

In the comments, share how you create space for innovation in your daily work.

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