Simple steps to Innovative thinking

Innovative Thinking

Yesterday evening staring at the sky blankly, I observed that it was almost spotless except for a few clouds. Nothing great but then I thought as to how often do we get time to wander and observe things around us? More often than not, it is the grind of our professional and personal commitments that keep us engaged and occupied.

The monotony of work and the constant reminders of deadlines make us more often a machine than a human. The irony is that even at our workplace, we are asked to innovate and be creative! But how far does it work?

Innovation does not always require an individual to come up with something breathtaking. As far as a product or a service is concerned, Innovation is about finding out or identifying a ‘want’ that is absent.

To identify this want, the mind needs time and space to think and sadly both these ‘resources’ are scarce! Innovation does not imply an out-of-the-world creation which is what many of us look at it as. But for even the smallest of innovations to happen, it is that understanding of the environment around us which is of paramount importance.

Sony coming with its Walkman is a classic example of the above. Till that time there were large stereo players but the idea of carrying music along in a pocket was something which not as many thoughts as possible. Well, the want was identified by them and that gave birth to a series of innovations to what we see today in Apple’s iPod.

Now the issue that arises is at what levels does innovation apply? The truth is it applies in every errand that is done to achieve an objective. The errand might be washing your car, purchasing groceries, meeting a deliverable in your office, managing product lines, coming up with a new product, managing employees, and other such macro issues.

The questions which one needs to ask is:

  1. Is there another way of doing a particular job or task?
  2. Is there an alternative available to a product which could use less resources and provide more productivity?
  3. Is there a different way of conceptualizing a particular problem / issue ?

Well, all of the above would meet some objective and might yield a reply which could be termed innovative as it might be an offshoot of a conventional approach ( like an iPod) or might be a completely novel invention such as an air conditioner which is unheard and unknown. Both of these have one thing in common, a deep and sound understanding of ‘wants’, eyes and ears wide open and a common objective – TO ADD VALUE  and SIMPLIFY.

Value is a common denomination that drives innovation at all levels mentioned above. Perspective or rather a different perspective could also help an individual innovate. In simple terms a+b+C = c+a+b, though both mean the same, the appearance and the way to think the latter might lead to a series of developments which could be innovation!

What’s been written demands one to think, so to help you think or innovate ( with regard to an issue or a problem), you could do the following things:

  1. Write down all the steps to solve the problem in a flow ( conventional or regular means of doing it)
  2. List the alternatives related or unrelated to the steps
  3. Identify which are the steps where you could think of alternatives ( applying from what you know about your surroundings or even diverse knowledge)
  4. Try shuffling the steps used to solve the problem/issue
  5. Try replacing the usual steps with the alternative approach and see if it helps or makes a new approach surface
  6. Is the new approach, helpful in terms of time management ( consumes less time) , fewer steps, easy to implement/execute

If you feel, one or a few of the questions are answered then you have found an innovative way to solve your problem or issue. This is not the only way of thinking differently and coming up with something innovative. Scores of approaches like these exist and what one needs to do is find an approach and see how to apply the same for large issues or problems.

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