Want to Be Wildly Innovative? Conform to this Process


At a panel discussion I attended last week on the future of education in the US, someone in the audience asked, “Who should lead the innovation?”

To which one of the panelists demanded, “Look around the room. We all should!”

Innovation (the application of better solutions) is our mandate. Politics, healthcare, education, financial markets, your city, your organization – they are either broken or threatened. We are desperately looking for leaders who can apply better solutions.

Getting to those solutions requires us to exercise our creativity. But there are many misconceptions about what it takes to be creative.

At a recent dinner party, one of my friends asked an author at the table, “What’s your creative process?”

Here’s what she told us:

“I go to the same Starbucks in the morning at roughly the same time, order the same thing and sit in the same spot. Then I listen to music, read and reflect. Then I write. Finally, I review my work with a trusted editor.”

It was a 7-step structured process. Without it, she’d be lost. It reminded me of a study at Johns Hopkins University in which researchers, using an fMRI brain scan, determined that jazz musicians can only use the creative, improvisational and self-expression region of their brain after they begin with process — a foundational chord progression or melody.

Likewise, if you search Google for “innovation is a process,” you’ll get more than 800 images of process diagrams!

Hand drawing empty diagram

So if you’re ready to answer the innovation mandate and lead with creativity, remember what innovation expert Nish Acharya says: “Developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem does not happen overnight.” Try this 9-step Innovation Process from Dale Carnegie Training’s Leadership Training for Managers course to get started:

1. Visualization. Describe the ideal future state. This will align and inspire stakeholders.

2. Fact Finding. Collect data to build a common ground of evidence for current reality.

3. Problem Finding. Frame the problem with one powerful question to generate creativity.

4. Idea Finding. Facilitate the unreserved flow of diverse possibilities.

5. Solution Finding. Weigh ideas against success criteria like cost, impact and timing.

6. Acceptance Finding. Accept that most innovation dies because it’s not funded or embraced.

7. Implementation. Apply the chosen approach.

8. Follow-up. Sustain innovation through structured cadences of activity.

9. Evaluation. Demonstrate impact and find further improvement.

We have to be creative to solve today’s problems, and as discussed in an earlier post, structure makes us creative. Establish your creative process and put it to work!

Do you have a creative process? What does it look like?

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