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How to become a better innovator

Becoming a better innovator is a soft skill that is often overlooked by HR departments and interview panels and yet it is something many organisations promote in their advertising and PR. How can you, as an employee, a manager or an executive become more innovative and contribute to your organisations innovative aspirations? For the purpose of this article I will actively avoid all of the old cliches such as ‘Thinking outside the box’, ‘Blue sky thinking’, ‘The art of the possible’ or ‘thought showers’. They are overused and don’t really tell us how we can think more laterally, creatively or originally, or, more importantly, how we can actively contribute to an organisation becoming more innovative. Here are six approaches that will help you to become a better innovator and contribute to your organisation becoming more innovative:

Understand the meaning of innovation

The first step towards contributing to an organisations innovation goals is understanding what your organisation means by ‘innovation’. How far they are prepared to go to become innovative and what are the specific outcomes of their innovation strategy. Are they looking for breakthrough revolutionary innovation or cost reduction and improved efficiency. Customers, clients, employees and other stakeholders might have varying views on what innovation means to them. For example, a client might expect you to innovate by reducing cost, while your innovation strategy is focused on developing new products. It’s therefore essential to gain consensus among stakeholders and have a clear idea yourself what your organisation means by innovation. Will your idea be heard, for example, if you are presenting an idea for a new ground breaking product when the organisations innovation strategy is focuses solely on improving efficiency? Likewise, efficiency related ideas might best be filtered through management than into an a innovation product pipeline.

Ask good questions

Being inquisitive and continually looking for a better way to do things is a sure fire way to generate new ideas. Is there a better way to deliver the core products and services that you are involved in? Are competitors or different industries doing it more effectively? How might the experience of the customer or client be improved? Continually ask yourself questions internally and ask other subject matter experts in the organisation. Then, spend some time exploring the answers and looking for solutions. Forbes provides 10 disruptive questions in their article here that may help:

Try new experiences

It’s all very well being a specialist and focusing solely on your area of expertise, but branching out from time to time will help you to create new neural pathways and make new connections. Pick up a book in an area that you are unfamiliar, read some articles or blog posts on subjects that are not directly related to your job or research innovative new technologies to see if there are any opportunities.

Collaborate and communicate

Break down those silos. Bringing people together with diverse experiences will provide more innovative solutions to problems. Innovation rarely happens in isolation, it is usually the result of diverse groups of people working together to resolve problems. ‘Crowdsource’ organisational problems by providing large groups or teams with tools to collaborate in an online environment. These groups can include diverse people with different experiences such as different departments, customer groups and other stakeholders. Crowdsourcing solutions can also be outsourced to organisations such as InnoCentive ( who have a network of 380,000+ problem solvers.

Take a structured approach to creativity

If you aren’t naturally creative or you are struggling to find new solutions to challenges there are a number of tools and exercises that can help to break you out of linear thinking and create new connections. is a great resource for a variety of different tools, including those relating to creativity: For more specific innovation related tools you may want to consider purchasing The Innovators Manual published by Richmond Innovation and available from Amazon.

Take a different perspective

Being too close to a challenge can prevent you from seeing the bigger picture. One approach is to use NLP (Neuro-Linguistic programming) techniques to imagine a situation from different perspectives. ‘Perceptual positions’ is an interesting NLP based exercise that will provide you with a new understanding of the situation. It’s useful in therapeutic, personal and business situations, particularly innovation, where a new or novel approach might be required. Have a look at the ‘NLP Now’ website for an step by step approach: These are just a few different approaches to becoming a better innovator. The best innovators are those who understand the process of innovation and are able to put best practice to work.

Richmond Innovation has training courses for Innovators and Innovation Managers that will provide all of the tools and approaches needed to deliver innovation effectively. The Innovators Manual also provides innovators with the background, tools and techniques to innovate effectively in organisations. The manual covers areas such as innovation process, developing innovative habits, creative tools, idea development, collaboration and business case preparation. The manual provides the reader with exercises to develop their skills and knowledge and forms the basis for the Innovators Training course that can be run at a location of your choosing or at one of our North West UK training partner sites. Please contact us and let us know your requirements.

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