One Way to Innovate

This was a guest blog post at Leaders Press On:

Napkin IdeaI had dinner this summer with someone I respect as a thought leader and innovator. We had a great conversation and discussion about a new project I am working on to disrupt the traditional model for IT and Information Governance consulting.

As we talked and bounced ideas off each other, an innovative creative synergy emerged that resulted in some new and novel ideas. It was great! Each idea shared inspired the other to add to it and up-level the previous idea. It was almost like a game of tennis or ping pong. The only difference was the ball was the idea and each time it crossed the net it was better.

That experience exposed something for me that is transformational that answers the following question.

How do you create an environment that fosters innovation with others?

Well, first you try something that is new and different. We had dinner at a really great Indian restaurant in DuPont Circle, Washington D.C. Indian food was new to my friend and this promised to take him out of his comfort zone.

Next, don’t focus on the thing you are trying to innovate about. We spent most of the time catching up and talking about all topics unrelated to the project I am working on.  That set the table for what transpired later.

So, what did I learn that evening that can help you be a pioneer — an innovator?  Here are four simple actions that can help you innovate with others.

  1. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone – Get one, both, or the team out of their comfort zone. I think this helps access new neural pathways in the brain and causes you or the participants to think about things differently.
  2. Connect Then Collaborate – Spend time connecting with the other person or team. By focusing on connection and conversations unrelated to the challenge or opportunity at hand you are helping to build an atmosphere which encourages collaboration in a safe space.
  3. Just Let It Flow – Don’t try too hard in planting the seed. Let the ideas flow and complement each other. No idea is bad. It is just an idea. You never know where it might take you. That idea that seems unusable at first might be the catalyst for something great 10 minutes later.
  4. Capture the Key Ideas – The free flow of ideas is great, and rarely do you want to stop the flow.  But every time there’s an uptick in the idea from whom you are collaborating, be sure to capture it.  Grab the napkin.  Write it down.  Don’t let those thoughts disappear like your dinner.  Savor them for as long as you can.  The next step is executing on those ideas.  Remember, they can’t be executed on if they are forgotten.

We had a really great dinner that evening and an innovative rich discussion simply by following those four actions.  It resulted in a couple of potential $1 million ideas.

Oh, who was my friend? None other than the host of this blog, Paul Gustavson.

Thanks, Paul!!!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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