Top 10 Ways to Maximize Innovation

Over the past 10 weeks we explored the power of building an innovation mindset across an entire organization. Topics included examples of innovative companies, common myths of innovation, and ways to lead an organization through uncertainty. Below are 10 insights from this exploration.

  1. Innovation is an organizational mindset.
    An innovation mindset goes well beyond R&D, product development and technology. Everyone must be open to thinking differently about everything we do and how we do it. And, if current mindsets aren’t working, we must be able to change them.
  2. Things that are “normal” might need to be challenged.
    Look for places where things are normal — working just as we expect — and consider changing them. Not challenging complacency where we should can leave us vulnerable for the future.
  3. Innovation is larger (and smaller) than we think.
    Innovation is much more than new products and services. Every process — large and small — that we improve, replace or eliminate is an innovation. Even a small process change can have a huge business impact.
  4. Innovation starts with the leader.
    How we think and engage in conversations can lock or unlock a relentless innovation mindset. It starts with us. For example, do we: Focus on rigid realities or pliable possibilities? Come at things with answers or questions? Solve problems by considering limited or many perspectives? Rely on what we know or don’t know to conquer challenges?
  5. Connection, conversation, contribution, collaboration and creativity matter.
    There’s no substitute for business interactions based on genuine connections, candid conversations and strong collaboration. My relationships with leaders, employees and clients are most powerful when exploration moves in all directions. The more we look for contribution in unexpected places, the more we learn and achieve.
  6. We need contribution across boundaries to make the impossible possible.
    We can break through limits by maximizing contributions across boundaries — functional silos, generations, industries, etc.
  7. The paradox of stability serves a purpose.
    The paradox of stability can help us figure out when success might lead to complacency and trouble. These situations might require change and innovation. On the flip side, we can see where stability will keep us on course — at least for now.
  8. Give up giving up.
    Innovation takes us to unknown territory. We don’t have a roadmap because we’ve never been there before. When the going gets tough, the easiest thing to do is give up. Instead of giving up, we can create new pathways by questioning assumptions and engaging others to deliver commitments that seem impossible.
  9. Leading in the fog activates innovation.
    Many leaders gravitate toward making the impossible possible. The outcome might be crystal clear in our minds, but the path to get there can be as unclear as playing golf in the fog. In times like these, we often think we’re supposed to have all the answers. But we can be better off when we realize innovation comes from not knowing. Sometimes, our best course is to elicit answers from others.
  10. Wide peripheral vision is critical.
    When leading an organization through challenges and uncertainty, we need the widest peripheral vision we can get. Conversations about not knowing open new perspectives and possibilities. Seeing new opportunities is a galvanizing force that creates an innovation mindset.

In an ever-changing business environment, where constant innovation is needed, it’s not so obvious that we need to create an innovation mindset to succeed. Leaders committed to creating an innovation mindset across the entire organization are more likely to succeed than those who don’t.


Robert Rothman is a strategic partner to CEOs and C-level executives in major, multinational organizations where he leads breakthrough growth and performance initiatives. His work with executives includes the development and execution of sustainable growth strategies and the custom design and delivery of enterprise-wide conferences that produce a mindset shift and breakthrough actions.

Mr. Rothman is a regular speaker at corporate meetings and business events, on such topics as breakthrough thinking, high performance and leadership. He also leads The Alignment Intensive, which is one of Gap International’s premier programs for senior executives and their teams.

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