Overcoming Your Biggest Obstacle To Innovation

In a recent survey I conducted with those who subscribe to my content, I found that “how to be more innovative” was one of the topics people most wanted to learn about online. I wasn’t surprised. Identifying creative and more effective ways of doing something are key to gaining a competitive advantage. Finding innovative ways to manage the tsunami of too much to do is also critical to improving work/life satisfaction. But just how does one become more innovative?

Innovation Starts When We Stop

Scott Makeig, director of the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience, talks about our constant “challenge of the moment.” In Autopilot: The Art And Science Of Doing Nothing, Andrew Smart writes, “If [the challenge of the moment] becomes every minute of every day of every month of every year, your brain has no time left over to make novel connections between seemingly unrelated things, find patterns, and have new ideas. In other words, to be creative.”

Reflect back on a meeting where you and your team were attempting to come up with some fresh strategy to address an opportunity or challenge. You brainstormed, charted, and discussed, only to come up with a mediocre solution. Then the next day someone from the team says to you, “While I was driving home last night I got this amazing idea…”

When we stop actively working on something mentally, it frees our brain to work without limits to discover a solution. 

Integrate Opportunities For Innovation Into Your Daily Routine

There are numerous ways we can improve our ability to innovate… if we are just willing to stop filling every moment with activity and allow our brains to work more creatively. Some simple strategies include:

  • Exercise without the earbuds. Allow your brain to wander without being held captive by music or the voice of someone else.
  • Shift from meaningful to mindless. Identify the challenge or opportunity you want to work through, and then engage in a low mental/high physical activity.
  • Give yourself permission to have daily moments of sacred idleness. Unplug from all your electronic devices and other distractions offered by the moment. Even a few deep cleansing breaths with your eyes closed and your hands resting in your lap can bring a sense of renewal and clarity that fosters more innovative thinking.

To learn more about the idea of “stopping” to improve your ability to innovate, read my article, “Doing Nothing Is Really Something,” or sign up to receive more practical solutions on how to become more innovative.