How to be a more effective innovator

When you look at the most efficient innovators you will find that they have one thing in common. They are effective because they have the habit to focus.

Know what you want
Always start with the end result in mind. Great leaders and innovators have a vision. They are ambitious and know where they are heading. They have thought hard about what they want, how to get there and above all: why they want it in the first place.

Why do you want to innovate? What do you want to gain from your innovation? What results are you looking for? When is your innovation a success? What steps do you need to take to get from where you are now to where you want to be?

If you want to be an innovator, focus on your outcome.

Set a target
Too often we find organisations that want to solve several issues at the same time. This is foolish. Focus on a single challenge. Only after you succeeded (or failed for that matter) you can set another challenge.

Is there a specific issue you want to address? Is there a new technology that you want to explore for your business? Do you have an idea that you want to turn into a profitable business? Have you stumbled upon a customer problem that you want to solve? Or do you just find yourself in need of innovation?

Whatever it is you want to work on, make sure you focus on one challenge at a time.

Protect your ideas
As an innovator, it’s important to place faith in your ideas. Especially if you are developing something unique, you will come across many people who have something to say about your ideas. Customers, colleagues and partners will always have suggestions on how to improve your innovation.

Be wise and listen. But don’t feel obliged to act. Sometimes you just have to ignore others and do what you believe is right. You know what they say; a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

Focus on your gut feeling. Trust your intuition.

Pick your battles wisely
Great ideas are almost always easy to explain and hard to realise. You need to work with lots of people to make the impossible possible. To do this you have to fight many battles, win dozens of arguments and you probably will make a few enemies along the way.

Many people will tell you that your plan is foolish and that your ideas are stupid. Be prepared to fight but pick your battles wisely. Know your priorities. Save your energy for when you truly need it.

Focus your energy on developing ambassadors and try to evade the “yes-but”-army and all its idea killers.

Cut the crap
Steve Jobs once gave advice to Mark Parker, the CEO of Nike, by saying: “Get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”

Sometimes we are so caught up in new features, that we miss the bigger picture. We are just busy adding new features and lose track of their necessity. In the world of startups, there is a beautiful term for this: “Feature creep”.

Always focus on the essence of your innovation. Try to separate the good stuff from the bad and search for value. What is really important? If you are not sure, check out my article on how to judge your ideas objectively.

Focus on the good stuff. Save what’s right and solve what’s wrong.

Kill your darlings
There lurks a great danger in original ideas. They steal your time (and heart) and distract you from the bigger picture. For example from the fact that your innovation is a misfit.

Perhaps your idea doesn’t truly solve your challenge or doesn’t fit your organisation’s innovation strategy.

Don’t fall in love too easily. Explore what other ideas you can come up with. It’s most likely that after a while you will stumble upon an even more dazzling beauty.

Above all, don’t hesitate to kill your idea if it isn’t feasible, doesn’t fit a customer need or does not match your existing business strategy. It’s only with such a radical attitude that you will be able to make a difference with disruptive new proposals.

Focus on results and feedback.


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  • Yann

    This is an amazing post. Well done.

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When developing a new product, figure out how it will be used (vragen, observeren en ervarenJe team creatiever maken