We often don’t know how the term actually applies to us. After all, we’re just doing our jobs. Innovation seems to have more to do with creative work (maybe in marketing) or in science (like in a lab somewhere). Too often we just don’t think of ourselves as being innovative as we go about our daily work.
To innovate, though, isn’t as overblown an action as it may sound. It just means “to begin or introduce something new.”
All it takes to be innovative is:
- Our idea for doing something in a new way
- Introducing it to others whose involvement or approval we need
- Setting it in motion once we have the okay
That’s not so hard, right?
Now, what is it again?
Innovative ideas, large or small, take many forms like a:
- Fix for things not functioning well
- New plan to refocus a faltering job
- Redesigned process that increases efficiency and effectiveness
- Workaround to keep work flowing until a lasting solution is achieved
- Message that reduces turmoil or raises optimism
In order to innovate, we need to:
- Look at our work with fresh eyes and see if there’s a better way
- Be willing to make an effort to influence our boss to accept our idea
- Overcome the fear that our idea may get rejected
- Accept accountability for our idea if it doesn’t work
Your innovativeness is a sign that solving the problem is personally important to you.
Inherent in innovation is your commitment to doing things right. Each of us has the power to innovate if and when we want to.
A draining idea
I live in a 200-year-old, log farmhouse situated in a hollow where the water table is close to the surface. Most of my basement floor is dirt. During extended periods of drenching rain, the water table rises up and visits my basement.
This happens infrequently, but when it does, it’s a big issue. For years I managed the “big” water with three sump pumps and a French drain. But if the power went out I was literally sunk. (I’ve had as much as 3 ½ feet of water there.)
I explained the problem one dry summer’s day to my contractor, Pete. He asked to look over the situation and think about it. The next day he said, “I think I can fix your problem by creating a gravity-feed drain that runs from the lowest point in the basement, out to the street.
He set up his transit in the basement, shot the angle, hired two young guys to dig the inside trench, hired another guy with a backhoe to dig a trench to the street, laid the perforated pipe, and then we waited for two years.
You can see in the photo here that it worked amazingly. To me, Pete’s a hero.
What Pete did was innovation. He had an idea, introduced it to me (his customer), convinced me to go ahead, and took responsibility for the outcome. Not only did his problem-solving skills work, they saved me money and anxiety.
Each time you find a better way, you increase your value on the job. Your innovativeness becomes a major part of your personal brand identity, and it will likely create evolving:
- Buzz about you
- Exposure to movers and shakers
- Opportunities for unique assignments
- Recognition and reward
- More business
Of all the strengths that you can develop to enhance your career, innovativeness is likely to do the most for you. To be innovative is to effectively demonstrate such traits as problem- solving, analysis, influencing, initiative, and calculated risk-taking.
Whenever you can deliver an idea that makes the workplace and the business operate more effectively, you are contributing in ways that make you stand out. The more business fit you are, the more tools you have in place to bring out your inner innovator. Now go for it.