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Tools for Innovation

In our contemporary world, information now literally travels at the speed of light. Not only do we have the ability to tap into news and social happenings instantly, we are also able to, with the push of a button, learn basically anything about anyone at any time. While on a personal level, privacy is important, in the world of business having access to information about competitors, suppliers, and potential human resources is a good thing. The problem is they also have access to information about your organization as well. With all of this capability for "following" available, I would propose that one of the keys to keeping an edge, not only as an organization, but as a professional and a leader, is innovation.

What is innovation? Well, simply, it is to take something that is traditional and conventional, and either repurpose or modify it. Synonyms for innovation include revolutionize, transform, morph, and alter. So are you, as a leader, revolutionizing your thoughts on leadership, teamwork, professional development, and communication? Are you seeking to be a leader who is different and who can not only inspire a team to perform to expectation, but to inspire a team to perform during difficult, unexpected, stressful situations? Seeking to be a great leader will always require innovation, and there are some key characteristics to becoming (or continuing to be) a great innovative thinker! There are four key skills that help facilitate innovative thinking. These are reciprocity, flexibility, resourcefulness, and interaction.

Reciprocity simply means you are able to give AND take mutually. The give typically comes naturally to leaders, but where many of us who have personalities equipped for leadership roles struggle is with the "take". Are we taking advice from others? Are we taking time to self-nature? Are we taking praise and allowing positive interactions with other to bolster us up? It's important as a leader to make sure the we are always open to the positive as well as being on the alert for the unexpected or detrimental. The balance of seeing with a wide lens and practicing reciprocity is important to remain open and alert to new ways of thinking and new processes.

Naturally with this comes flexibility and resourcefulness. Great leadership is flexible if nothing else. Rarely do projects go to plan, on time, on budget, and to expectations. Great leaders anticipate this and are prepared to be flexible and resourceful in times of crisis. Being flexible opens doors for creative and resourceful thinking and relying on others to do the same. Embracing the unexpected rather than resenting or resisting it allows for new windows of perspective to open, and for creative inspiration to begin.

The final trait of great innovative leaders is interaction. This is more than just verbal communication. Interaction speaks to a level of accessibility and even vulnerability. While you ARE the leader, do your interactions with others allow them to feel that you are open to new ideas? Does your body language, tone of voice, and even your pace through the office allow for others to feel that you are open, available, interested, and willing to listen to new proposals? Interaction is more than just giving out information, it is being able to communicate to those around you that you are also willing to RECEIVE their thoughts and ideas as well. Openness to new ideas is key to making new thought connections or developing new processes of communication or leadership.

Innovation as a leader is what will set you apart as a professional. The ability to take what is predictable, normal, and conventional, and transform or alter it for the better will separate your leadership from those around you, and continue to inspire your team to greatness!

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