3 Keys to Becoming a Successful InnovatorSep 26, 2023
This week I’m writing to you from Dubai. I’m here to speak at an Innovation Conference. First off, let me just say for those of you who have never been here….amazing. What a city! Everything here says, ‘Wow!’ From the tallest building in the world to pristine architecture and outstanding hospitality, Dubai is everything you’ve heard about and more.
Folks might be wondering why a confidence and high-performance coach is speaking at an innovation conference? ‘They’re not really related, are they?’ or ‘Innovation is the tech space.’ I want to share with you what an esteemed colleague of mine from the business school shared with me once about the field of entrepreneurship. I used to say that I’m not in the entrepreneurship space, or 'I’m not in the dollars and cents world.' My colleague educated/introduced me to a concept about entrepreneurship that I had never thought about. Entrepreneurship isn’t about the bottom line--a balance sheet of profits versus losses. Entrepreneurship is about creating value—leaving something better than you found it. He pointed out that as a soccer coach and somebody that was into the world of high performance, entrepreneurship was in the DNA of everything I did. Upon reflection, he was right. I just never thought of it that way. I think the same can be truly said of Innovation.
Innovation isn’t about zeros and ones, bits and bytes, code, technology or restricted to the field of science.
So don’t count yourself out if you struggle with spreadsheets or remembering all of your passwords. We all can innovate, no matter our discipline, because innovation is about leaving something better than you found it.
Innovation isn’t a luxury you can put off or avoid. It’s a necessity for surviving in today’s world. As a leader, your ability to foster a culture of innovation can be the difference between your organization’s success and relevance or its stagnation.
The truth about innovation though is, that the road is filled with failure, setbacks and usually tons of criticism from all of the armchair quarterbacks out there. How we respond determines our success. This is where grit and resilience come in to help us stay the course. Sometimes we get in our own way, whether it’s our fear of failure, fear of negative feedback and criticism or just our own self-doubt that leaves us unable to take the risk that’s necessary for that one chance out one hundred that we are actually right or will be heard. So, this is for all of you potential innovators out there:
3 KEYS TO BECOMING A SUCCESSFUL INNOVATOR:
- Consider, ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ This is a famous line from Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. For me, it’s about letting go of the outcome and, instead, focusing more on the learning that the process gives you, or letting go of your own ego if your fear is about how you’re being perceived. Embrace the change and the potential that comes with it. Response to setbacks with a growth mindset instead. In the field of academic performance, Dweck is famous for the phrase, ‘Not yet.’ If you get a ‘D’, stop interpreting it as, “I’m no good. I can’t do this.” It’s more about, “I’m not quite ready.” This allows folks to go back and put in the work that’s needed. In order to stay the course, use your toolkit of coping skills (this might be your confidence letter, your affirmations or your thought stopping).
- Don’t only focus on the broken pieces. Innovation can happen in the areas where we think we’re experts. This requires humility. As high performers, we’re always willing to surround ourselves with teammates whose skill sets are complimentary. I’m going to challenge you to also surround yourself with those who will push you in your own area of expertise. We need to be willing and open to accept that critical feedback or nudge to make important breakthroughs.
- Shoot. Aim. Reload. Don’t wait until you’re completely ready. If you notice, the greatest innovators often have a rocky journey of rejection or failure leading up to that amazing invention. Why? They weren’t obsessed with perfection. For innovators, it’s about getting something out there and moving the needle--evaluating, assessing and trying again to get it right. There’s something to be said about incremental progress lauded with praise--it motivates your team to stay the course. If the time between launches or trials is too long, people can become discouraged and lose interest.
Innovators are high-performers. They are filled with confidence and grit, hope and optimism. This does not mean there is an absence of fear, doubt or imposter syndrome. Expect a few ‘terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.’ (Viorst) Innovators are able to be successful because they choose to interpret their failures as, “Not yet” or “Learning what doesn’t work.” Sharpening our mental skills like confidence and grit and monitoring our self-talk allows innovators to stay motivated because they genuinely believe they are getting closer to their goal.