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So, you think you are innovative? Test yourself and your company with these five questions.

March 8, 2018

Innovation is a hot topic out there these days. Everyone is talking about the need to be innovative, and many believe they are there, but are they really? Here are five questions to ask yourself and assess if you and your organization have the skills to make great things happen.

1. How dissatisfied am I (or is the organization) with the status quo?

If you or your organization feel you are on top and life is good, start questioning the future. If you are so busy enjoying the view that you stop moving the bar, the competition will sneak up and surpass you.

On the flip side, if you are pushing others' buttons and looking at the world from a different perspective, congratulations! You are thinking like an innovator!

2. When was the last time I (or we as an organization) did something that was game-changing?

This is not to say that every innovation has to change the entire industry, but at least 20% of them should push the boundaries of its current state. Think of how the ATM revolutionized banking and paved the way for the next phase of self-service online banking. When is the last time you delivered an 'ATM'?

Innovation can also be internally focused on systems; but true innovation is not just tweaking an existing system by simply adding a new plug-in, it fundamentally changes the way we work.

If you or your organization haven't been changing the game, you aren't being innovative.

3. When I (or the organization) "innovate", do I start with someone else's idea and build on it?

Taking something the competition is doing and making it your own with a slight twist is NOT innovative. To be innovative, you need to take what competitors are doing into account but not stop there. You need to see what other problems or needs are being ignored with their approach and take what you are doing to the next level by solving those problems or taking opportunities in a way no one else is. Then and only then can you say you are being innovative.

4. How much time do I (or the organization) dedicate to experimentation?

So many have forgotten how to play and try new things. How much time do you dedicate to testing and trying new ideas? How does your organization react when you do take that time? What questions do they ask? If talk and vibe immediately go to a place of waste, well that's not how innovative people or organizations view experimentation.

You are innovative when experimentation is viewed and discussed as an opportunity to iterate and learn.

5. When was the last time I (or the organization) failed?

This is probably the most critical question to ask. Fear of failure stops a lot of individuals and organizations from truly innovating. Fear causes us to take threads of a truly innovative idea and use excuses and trade-offs to pare it back to something that feels safe and to avoid failure, but we also lose any chance of winning big.

Being innovative means we have to be willing to fail. The key is to fail fast and fail cheap, so we are not investing money, time and resources into ideas that won't generate significant value. This step involves a systematic approach to test the validity of ideas through rapid cycles of learning, prototyping, and math modeling.

If you've been avoiding failure, are you truly innovative?

So, what if you realize that you are not as innovative as you thought?

Like any other skill, you and your organization can learn to be innovative.

Click here to access free webinars and register for Innovation Engineering training sessions that help organizations and individuals develop the skills and use the tools that drive meaningful transformation. If you truly want to make innovation happen, now is the time to begin!

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