04 Sep 2016 17:33 IST

The secret to staying innovative at work

Start small, love what you do, seek out inspiration and don’t get discouraged when you face failure

Innovation is unlike any other business activity. There are no targets to meet or rules that you have to abide by, no measures of conventional success and no templates or sure-shot formulas. Yet, innovation is crucial for the development of any organisation and individual. It fuels profitability irrespective of industry, and every employee must try to incorporate innovativeness into their work regardless of their role and level in an organisation.

A survey conducted in February by Harvard Business Review across companies based in the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, and India revealed that “while nearly nine in ten non-managers strongly believe they ought to be involved in innovation, far fewer (roughly six in ten) say they actually are”. This indicates that there is a clear disconnect between leaders and those lower down the ranks. Organisations need to recognise that innovation is not only the responsibility of senior management, and be open to the fact that innovative ideas can come from anywhere in the organisation.

Here are five tips to help you be innovative at work:

Love what you do

In order to be innovative, you need to understand your company’s vision and align yourself with the requirements of your job. Fantastic ideas and inventions that have no application in your company are of no use. If you learn to love what you do, relevant ideas will automatically come to you as work does not seem like work when you are passionate about it.

Identify colleagues who are driven and enthusiastic about their work and interact with them to learn how they are innovative on the job. It’s far more enjoyable to work alongside stimulating, welcoming, and ambitious people working towards the same goals.

Learn from failure

When you try to break stereotypes and do something new, chances are that you will fail. Do not let the fear of not succeeding inhibit you from doing what you believe in. Even if you fail, use that as a learning experience for your future projects.

Start small. It is a common misconception that innovations must always be great, transformational, and path-breaking. Often, it’s the small things that make a colossal difference. The payback of minor innovations is high. They do not take much time to create, do not require a lot of human or capital resources and manage to gather the attention of both your team and organisation. This helps pave the way for other substantial projects.

Adopt the right attitude

When someone does something innovative, you may often feel like you too could easily achieve the same and belittle their success. Remember that being innovative is easier said than done. One needs to be determined and positive. When you choose to break the norm and do something differently, it is natural for people to question and criticise. Do not let this get you down.

Focus on your goal and devise a plan of action, then work towards achieving it. Always ensure that your goal is aligned with your company’s vision and that your success does not only bring you personal glory but helps in the greater good of your organisation. Be thankful for the time and money that your organisation has invested in you. Remember to thank your colleagues who have supported you and stood by your side.

Always be on the lookout for inspiration

Most of us start our day diving into our emails. While this is important, a more inspired start to your day can gear you up to think creatively. Read your favourite blog, watch a relevant webinar or listen to a podcast. Inspiration can be found anywhere. Stimulating your mind with new information helps in fuelling innovation. Get into the habit of taking a stroll now and then — you’ll find that you notice new things. You will be surprised how much this will inspire your attitude and creativity throughout the day.

Experiment everyday

Think of new ways to do small things every day. Create an innovation notebook. Choose to do one task differently every day and make a note of it. Innovation cannot occur without experimentation. Most often, the fear of failure prevents us from trying something new but you have to risk failure in order to succeed.

Use these tips to develop a habit of trying to be innovative every day. You will learn to develop new perspectives, and you will start to enjoy almost everything you do. Remember not to get discouraged — an innovative idea may be just around the corner!