5 Psychological Secrets Every Innovator Should Know

Even in today’s digital age, the cookbook industry is still huge. Major publishing houses hire top-notch designers to work with their bestselling authors. And when you look at the visuals that these designers produce it’s absolutely stunning. Flipping through the books, my eyes and my mouth are always in heaven. So on the surface, it seems like cookbooks are a great example of good design. Big time designers and pretty pictures is a recipe for success right?

Well, if that’s truly the case – that they’re perfect examples of design – then how come every time I go to use one I always find myself frustrated? Even when the recipe is like 5 or 6 steps long I’m lost. What’s going on here? Well, for the longest time, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It wasn’t until I was looking over my notes from a book that I previously read that I began to understand.

Don’t trust your team? Then forget innovation.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Consider the Tale of Two Companies: TrustCo and ControlCorp.

ControlCorp is full of dreaded middle managers. Anytime you want to do something, you have to get approval from your manager, and she has to get approval from her manager and so on. Most of your day at ControlCorp is spent in meetings updating everyone on what you’re doing (which is often just sitting in other meetings). The employee handbook is filled with so many rules, procedures, and policies, it’s hard to keep them all straight. And don’t even think about suggesting a new way of doing things. Sure, innovation is part of the corporate motto, but the truth is ControlCorp has been doing it this way for a long time, and why mess with something that’s working?

TrustCo is very different. It maybe has a few managers, but for the most part, the place runs itself. You won’t find many rules, either. Sure, there are lots of processes, but they’re always changing, so taking the time to document them never seemed to make much sense. And there are meetings, too, but they’re for feedback and ideation, not updates and approval. TrustCo is not for everyone, though. It’s a place where everything is in flux. There’s no one person who’s accountable for everything; it really depends on the context. And there’s no one really telling you what to do, so you’d better be good at figuring that out for yourself. If ambiguity is not your thing, then you probably ought to look elsewhere for work.

Don’t Have Time to Read the Bestselling Book on Feedback? I gotchu.

No matter what project you’re working on, no matter what role you have, and no matter how long you’ve been doing it, giving and receiving feedback is important. This isn’t really an earth-shattering idea nor does anyone deny that. But despite the fact that everyone claims to know how important feedback is… we never really get taught how to do it and quite frankly we’re often afraid of it. This was the main reason I was so excited to read the book called “Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well” by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. And my quick feedback on the book is that it doesn’t disappoint.

thanks for the feedback

First, Let’s Meet the Authors.

Douglas and Sheila are both lecturers on Law at Harvard Law School and cofounders of Triad Consulting. They’ve worked with some pretty big time players like the White House, Citigroup, Honda, Johnson & Johnson, Time Warner, & Unilever. So yeah, they’ve got some experience working with big players and getting feedback from important people. They decided to take their experiences and break it down into an easily digestible and comprehensive look at giving and receiving feedback. Here are my 8 takeaways from the book.

The Most Important Lesson of The Last Jedi

Warning: This post contains major spoilers about the plot of The Last Jedi. If you haven’t see it, stop reading now (and may the force be with you).

lukePhoto via Lucasfilm

Still here? Good. Let’s talk about The Last Jedi, the eighth Star Wars movie in the Skywalker Saga, the ninth live-action Star Wars, and the tenth to be theatrically released. And if that bit of precise accounting didn’t tip you off, let me just come out and say it: I’m a huge Star Wars fan. The first novel I ever read was a Star Wars book, and I’ve probably read about a hundred since then. But of all the new Star Wars stories that have been released in my lifetime, the reaction to this move has been the most, well, weird.

Better than Brainstorming – Part 2: 4 MORE Ways to Ideate

better than brainstorming part 2Photo by Alex Iby via Unsplash

We’ve all been in a brainstorming meeting where a few people throw out ideas for the solution to a problem. While this is better than doing nothing, these meetings are tough. Often, it’s hard for us to come us with new ideas on the spot (that don’t suck). Not to fear! This is the second part of our take on some better brainstorming techniques. Part 1 goes over 4 new ways to help you and your team generate new ideas, and this second part has four more (because you can never have enough ways to generate new ideas).

Better than Brainstorming – Part 1: 4 Ways to Ideate

brainstorming featurePhoto by Federica Giusti via Unsplash

For many of us, the most intimidating part of the innovation process is coming up with ideas. That uneasy feeling is the Innovation Myth at work. We’re all familiar with Hollywood depictions of geniuses having a bolt of insight that leads them to create the next big thing. But where did that bolt come from? Divine inspiration? Good genes? When it’s our turn to come up with great ideas, where are they supposed to come from?

How 4 Industry Leaders Use the Power of Purpose to Innovate

In a previous post we gave you some steps for how to find your organization’s purpose and why having a purpose is scientifically proven to help your team be more innovative. As a follow up we wanted to share some real world examples of these purpose-driven organizations.

Your Organization’s Purpose is Not a Goal

Alright think for a moment about your organization’s purpose. Got it? (And no, those crappy business jargon mission statements don’t count.)  If not, keep thinking for the next few paragraphs…

4 Steps to Finding Your Organization’s Purpose

Organization Purpose 1Photo by Rawpixel via Unsplash

Today, business gurus focus on terms like mission, culture, and innovation as the keys to organizational effectiveness. And they’ve done a good job of getting these terms out into the zeitgeist. But there’s a problem: these words are easy to repeat but hard to put into practice. When it comes to mission statements, we struggle to come up with the perfect words to inspire the people within our organization. When it comes to company culture, we struggle to define what our culture even is and to identify what could make it better (other than more dogs in the office, of course). And when it comes to innovation, we struggle to find the right formula to produce the next great thing.

Currently, the vast majority of organizations’ mission statements are essentially “to become the market leader and maximize shareholder value.” This kind of thinking leaves organizations susceptible to new competition and discourages innovators from coming up with novel ideas because it’s so focused on the organizations’ current lines of business.

Swiping Right. Finding Your Dream Job.

Holding HandsPhoto by Brooke Cagle via Unsplash

In some ways, the relationship between you and your job is like a romance. When things first start out, everything’s new and exciting. This energy creates a burst of passion that you’ll find engaging and can help you produce some really innovative work. But as with all relationships, the newness is fleeting, and your honeymoon stage eventually comes to an end. After this initial spark fades, you need to find a way to sustain your passion for the organization you’re a part of. If not, your inspiration will suffer. There’s no quicker way to kill creativity than to be working on some project you couldn’t care less about. And things will only get worse from there. Eventually your apathy will turn into resentment as you think about how much good you could be doing if only you were part of a different organization. Once you reach this point, it’s time for the break up.

Because we all know that breakups suck, you’re probably asking yourself, “How can we avoid this? How can we have a successful relationship with our job so that we can continue being creative?” The answer’s a little complicated.

Welcome to the Innovation Economy

innovation worldPhoto by Riccardo Annandale via Unsplash

Innovating has always been an important human activity.  It’s led to tools and agriculture and cities and an ever-increasing quality of life.  This work was — in the past — largely the domain of the privileged few.  Kings and queens spurred innovation by spending money to create ever-advancing ships, castles, and weaponry. Even in the Industrial Age, only a few families had enough wealth to afford the kind of education that empowered James Watt and Thomas Newcomen to create the steam engine. Only people and organizations with enough resources were able to create the next great thing.  

But we’ve now reached an inflection point in the evolution of innovation.  No longer the bastion of the elite, innovation is being democratized.  Every year, individuals from humble backgrounds break onto the scene with billion-dollar companies. Take Instagram.  The photo sharing app was built by a pair of entrepreneurs in their twenties over the course of just eight weeks.  Two years later, they sold their company to Facebook for a billion dollars.  Of course, Instagram isn’t the only story of David defeating Goliath.  Slack, Uber, Netflix, and hundreds startups like them faced competition from some of the largest corporations in existence — but they all won.

Why is this change happening? Three societal forces have pushed us to this inflection point: Abundance, Access, and Automation.