Technology is changing at lightning speed. When I was in college, a single computer took up an entire room.  Yes, am dating myself a little here…. Now, we hold computing devices in the palms of our hands. In fact, we have more computing power in our pockets than all of NASA had when they put the first man on the moon in 1969.

We now live in a world increasingly surrounded by self-driving cars that may someday be self-flying cars, of pervasive artificial intelligence, and where India can put a spacecraft around Mars for less than what Hollywood spent making the movie Gravity.

Innovation is significantly shaping our world. And it’s the number #1 topic I’m most frequently asked about. Whether it’s at the HP offices, at speaking engagements, or when I attend conferences, people want to know how they can tap into their own inner innovator, and spark innovation at their offices. I wanted to share a few of those questions and the answers I give in hopes of sparking more innovation at your office.

Why is innovation important to a company and employees’ personal development?
Innovation is about adapting to change.  It’s the difference between leading change and being led by it, so it is critical for any company that wants to do the disrupting and not be the disrupted.

Adapting is the difference between leading change and being led by it.

Innovation is equally important for personal development. Innovation at a company doesn’t happen magically; a company can only be truly innovative if they have employees who are innovative. Adopting an innovative mindset also makes life a lot more interesting and fun when you think of every problem that comes at you as an opportunity to learn and grow.

What makes someone an innovator?
Innovation is an attitude. As an innovator you need to believe you can change the world, that if you keep working on a problem you will eventually find a solution, and that anything is possible.  Innovators have a passion to make things happen. They relentlessly take action.

How can I inspire my team to take action?
I tell my team: be curious. Observe, ask questions, have an open mind, and suspend judgement. Be bold. Be passionate about what you’re doing. Most importantly, have fun. I often say that boredom is not a corporate objective, and when you enjoy what you do, you will be better at it.

What are the most common misconceptions when it comes to innovation?
I’ve come across several misconceptions. The first is that it requires a large team and a lot of resources to change the world. While endless resources and a large team can make parts of innovation easier, it doesn’t take an army to do big things. Disruption can occur with small, special forces with drive and dedication. The willingness of smaller teams to be agile and adaptable can lead to success.

Another misconception is when you are starting something new, you need to know what you’re doing ahead of time. In reality, you just need to have the right mindset, and you’ll find your way. Trust in yourself, and learn along the way. Don’t get stuck at the starting line because things will inevitably change anyway. It’s better to get started, enjoy the journey and adapt to the changing world around you.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

How do you deal with failure?
You shouldn’t just prepare for failure, you should welcome it and actively seek it out because failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. I truly believe you can’t have success without failure. As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Sometimes it takes “failing” 10,000 times to find the right path forward. When you start something new, think of all the reasons that something won’t work. Then, order them by the highest risk of failure, and go about testing the riskiest assumptions first. If things aren’t meant to be, aim to fail fast.

How can employees practice an innovation mindset?
Start with small things. Have lunch every week with someone outside of your team. Talk to them about what they do and how they do it. Innovation is about leveraging diversity, and the more you know about more things, the better you will be able to innovate.

Write down your ideas. Sometimes the simple act of writing things down can bring your ideas to life. You never know when that list will come in handy.

Be mindful of the language you use. The words we use influence our thoughts and mindset. Get in the habit of reinforcing an innovative mindset through the words you use or the way you respond to questions. Instead of “why?”, ask “why not?” Instead of saying “no, but…”, say “yes, if…”.

Once you become comfortable with those, move on to larger mindset shifts.

Question your assumptions about everything. Many times, the “right” way to do things can be altered and improved, it just takes someone to question the underlying assumptions. Ask yourself, how can this be improved? How can we make it better?

Be persistent. Don’t give up when things get tough. Instead, keep your eye on the prize and work your way toward it one step at a time. Test, learn, iterate, move forward, rinse, and repeat. Through that process, make it a personal goal to learn one new thing every day.

Don’t play the blame game. If something goes wrong, look for solutions and learn from everyone’s mistakes. The past is already behind you, so you might as well leave it there. Simply stay in the “here and now” and do whatever you can to create the future you’re aiming for.

Help others build on their ideas. It’s not your job to tell others why their ideas are bad or won’t work. Help them grow their ideas and make them work as if they were your own.

The future hasn’t happened yet, you get to create it.

Lastly and most importantly, believe in yourself and what you’re doing. As a child, we all believe we could do anything or be anything. Sometimes as adults, we forget that. We listen to people tell us why we can’t do something or why something isn’t a good idea. Don’t listen to them. Recapture that child-like belief in yourself. The future hasn’t happened yet, you get to create it.

What are your tips for sparking an innovation mindset? I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.

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