Raise your hand to ask a question. Form a single file line. Color inside the lines. From the earliest age we’ve been cultured to follow instructions. We’re rewarded for following directions. But unfortunately those things that make a great student are holding you back in your career.
If you want to be valuable to your business you must become a innovator. If you want to become truly remarkable you must, must, must be the guy who moves things forward. This is the way you thrive in todays world.
Easier said than done, I know. I spent years of my career piling up great ideas in a box and never doing any of them. I was the guy who had a better way, but waited for someone with “power” to execute. Don’t follow this path and expect results.
You need to be indispensable – a linchpin. Your training starts now:
The First Step
Start with something small, maybe even unnoticeably small. Relocate the trash can to a better place. Make a sign with step-by-step instructions for using the fax machine. Organize the pesky wires in the conference room.
It’s no big deal really, and that’s exactly why you should start here. Fear won’t pounce on you for something so small. It’s the first turn of the flywheel.
Innovate for Yourself
Your next task is to find something that only affects you personally and improve it. It could be the way you filter your email or how you organize your meeting notes. Again, it’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s important nonetheless.
For example, in my job I started collecting emails I commonly sent out to clients. As I collected them I reformed them over and over until I had my own personal template. It’s just one more turn of the flywheel.
Innovate for Your Team
Now that we’ve got some momentum let’s try something a little bolder. If you work with a team of people no doubt there’s common processes you follow. You probably learned it when you started, and nothing much changed after that. Let’s do something about that. It’s time to innovate for your team.
It doesn’t need to be huge. In fact it shouldn’t be anything radical at this point. Find something small that your team could do better and start doing it. Test it out to see how it goes, and let them know what you’re up to. If it seems like there’s nothing to improve, look harder for a better way.
If it’s better, great! Now lead your team to the new land of awesomeness you created.
If it’s worse, great! You now no one more way that doesn’t work! No doubt some of your attempts will fail, but that’s okay. Real innovation risks failure to find success.
Innovate for Your Company
The last challenge is the most difficult because it involves getting outside the comfort zone of your team. It’s time to innovate how your team works with outsiders. It could be how your engineering group fields questions from the sales teams, or how your project management team reports statuses to stakeholders.
Find something that could be improved, and get about the business of fixing it.
Again, we’re not talking radical change here, but something significant that people notice. It should reduce friction when working with your team, not increase it.
The Innovation Mindset
You can feel it now no doubt. The momentum of innovation has got you – your flywheel is spinning and nothing can stop it!
What you tackle next is up to you, and I challenge you to keep this momentum going. Your company needs you. The world needs you. You are a linchpin.
How does your company respond to innovation?