Let’s talk Energy and Let’s Talk Behaviors

Successful innovation is always (and will always be) characterized by motivated people, great teamwork, and organizations that get out of people’s way. This is what I like to call innovation energy and it’s a powerful strategy that works in any size organization. Innovation energy is something that you will feel when you walk in the door. It is the anti-dote to “office speak.” It strips away bureaucracy, inefficiency and it quickly engages project teams in a practical and inspiring way.

There are 3 key components to this notion of INNOVATION ENERGY:

  1. Great innovation behaviors– Over my years of working as an innovation consultant, I think that there are a few simple ways to behave that really unlock creativity and innovation. Curiosity– the process of looking externally for inspiration. The next is Growth. This is looking at the world from the lens of what is possible, embodying an optimistic and learning mindset. And realnesss - To borrow a phrase from Nike – just do it. It doesn’t need to be perfect – it just needs to be done. You must take your idea off the page and convey the idea in the same way that the user will experience it. You will receive feedback, make changes, and learn quickly from failure. To summarize – three behaviors – curiosity, growth, and realness.
  2. Right innovation attitude– This is about having enough people within the organization who believe innovation is important, are confident that they can do it, and who care enough to stretch themselves in order to make it happen. In short, innovation attitude demands that people give a crap.
  3. Supportive environment– Finally, innovation requires risk. It requires going out on a limb and saying, thinking or doing something totally different. Your organization needs to have an environment of trust so that people feel comfortable taking risk and they must feel secure that there will be no repercussions for failure.

Ok, so let’s dig in a bit on how to create this INNOVATION ENERGY. Let’s start by exploring behaviors. The first one – is one I love and that is Curiosity.

Curiosity is not a luxury or a bonus or an add-on – it is a vital tool that makes work and life richer. Curiosity like creativity is not something that some people possess and others do not, but something everyone can do and get better at. It is possible to get curious-er. But this is not something that happens by accident. It is really important to be more conscious about it. We are all creatures of habit and curiosity requires you to break some of those habits.

OK, so how do we do it? How do we become more curious? First, I will tell you how I nurture my own curiosity. I have to say that I am naturally a very curious person. When I am at the grocery store, I love to see what is in everyone’s cart. When I take the subway, I have been known to eavesdrop on a conversation or two. But beyond my natural tendencies, I am also quite deliberate in nurturing my curiosity. To be honest, I get bored quite easily – so in order to overcome that I know that I need to be constantly looking for sources of inspiration. One of my favorite activities is I love to listen to speakers on all kinds of topics. I find it really interesting, inspiring and it keeps me motivated. Living in nyc, I have loads of opportunities to see all kinds of people speak about everything from climbing Mount Everest to cooking Korean Short Ribs – but all of that stimulus keeps me engaged and stimulated.

Top Tips for Nurturing Curiosity at Work

  1. Develop a Culture of Curiosity – This can apply in your organization, on your team, or in your life. Highly functioning teams do this naturally – it becomes a habit for them. They organize monthly or weekly “freshness activities” and it serves as both a bonding and intellectual experience.
  2. Value Curiosity – Again, in your team or your organization –Prioritize being curious. Encourage it as a strength. We know that it is something that you have to foster, and dedicate time to; recognize it, reward it and encourage it.
  3. Read, watch, and/or listen to at least one new thing every month – At the end of the month, ask yourself have I read something different, watched something new, or listened to a new podcast. Put a structure in place to keep you accountable (a reminder in your phone?) to keep the freshness going.

What is clear is that innovation does not happen on its own and building innovative cultures requires deliberate action and planning. In my decade and a half career in innovation, I know that so much of innovation is about people, their energy, the way they think and act in an environment with trust. Once you can get the innovation energy percolating, the creativity and the ideas will be flowing. It is something that you have to practice and think about but it is really worth it.

Stay tuned for more practical tips, techniques and advice on Growth, Realness, and a few more innovation behaviors.