In today’s world, businesses will only survive if they innovate. No longer can your reputation or your current products be relied upon to keep you in business, just look at Yahoo, which was bought this week by Verizon. If you stand still, figuratively speaking, you actually move backwards. The desire to be more innovative must grow ever stronger.

It’s easy to say, but how can you keep on becoming more innovative? How do you continue to create new ways of delighting customers and keeping the competition behind you? It is incredibly hard and must involve every single person in the organisation. There may be a team tasked with creating an innovative environment or culture, but they need the ideas and the implementation of those ideas to come from everyone.

Ideas come from being creative, looking at a situation in a fresh way and seeing a potentially different way. To be creative, you need to step back and slow down to allow the mind to see new way; explore rather then constantly exploiting. To be successfully creative, however, there has to be the existence of risk.

Creativity, by it’s nature, operates outside comfort zones; it is new. Risk, by it’s nature, also exists outside of comfort zones, co-existing with creativity. If creativity is the foundation of innovation, being innovative must involve taking risks.

FailedLeaders want people to be more innovative and to stop being risk averse. “Take more risks” they say, but what people hear is something quite different, “go and do something stupid and fail.”

In our rational minds, we know that our leaders mean take a “calculated” risk, weighing up the pros and cons. Try something new or a different way; what’s the worst that can happen? Even with that rational decision, taking risks is contrary our human nature.

Taking a risk means that what you try might not work, in other words, you could fail. Being labelled as a failure is not aspired to. Unfortunately, you cannot explore new and better ways and be creative if you want to avoid risk.

So how can these patterns of thinking, which are the enemy of creativity, be overcome? Start substituting the word “learn” for the word “fail”. What did I “learn” today sounds very different to what did I “fail” at today. Learning is good, indicating progress and forward steps – I am happy to be labelled as a learner.

Learning versus failure is not a new concept, as Edison was once quoted as saying, “I found 700 ways how a light bulb didn’t work”; those failures enabled him to find the answer.

One of my favourite stories is how WD40 was created, an incredibly useful solvent that I (and my car) cannot do without! WD40 stands for “Water Dispersant 40th Formula“, because it was the 40th attempt that finally worked! The 39 failures are celebrated in the very name of the product.

If we want to be more innovative, reject the safety net to embrace risk and the potential of failure. Flip your vocabulary to talk about focusing on learning so that being creative becomes an easier step to make.

 

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