technology and innovationThere are three primary motivations for inventing something:

  • Necessity: The need for a new product or service which does not currently exist
  • Laziness: An easier way than the current method of doing something
  • Innovation: A better or more efficient product, service, or method of doing something

All three motivations require creativity, but each one involves a certain way of thinking in order to be realized. Necessity revolves mainly around survival. The invention of tools and weapons were driven by necessity. Laziness is more about working smarter, not harder. Transporting a load of goods on your back or on the back of an animal gets something from point A to point B, but using a wheeled cart makes that task immensely easier and increases the size of the possible load as well.
Innovation is about adding value, whether it’s for an existing product, process or service or for something entirely new. It’s about making something more efficient or better than what came before, or even filling a niche market that didn’t exist until an innovative invention was introduced. Innovations can be of necessity or laziness or a class by themselves, but their commonality is that they involve an alternate way of thinking about something. The automobile was an innovation in transportation and it changed the world.

For decades, business has been focused on left-brain thinking. That is, to be analytical, linear and logical. After all, numbers don’t lie, right? In the past, right-brain thinkers, those who demonstrate empathy, understanding and creativity had routinely been mocked or ignored. However, as business models have changed to adapt to increasingly complex technologies and more intelligent consumers, right-brain thinkers are now celebrated as critical drivers for creative products and revolutionized processes.

So how does one go about training one’s mind to think in an innovative fashion?

Put simply, one has to unlearn how to think in order to relearn how to think. Well, maybe not so simply. Children are naturally creative and innovative thinkers, but as they get older it gets ever more difficult to think in alternate ways. A research study by George Land in 1968 demonstrated these facts and indicated that innovative thinking skills can be taught with creative approaches.

August Turak wrote about his mentor, Louis R. Mobley, and how the IBM Executive School was built around six key insights about teaching executives creative thinking rather than how to analyze financial reports.

  1. Alternatives to traditional teaching methods must be used to foster creativity
  2. Unlearn existing assumptions in order to think in an alternative way
  3. Creativity isn’t so much learned as it is experienced
  4. Being around creativity encourages creativity
  5. Understand your own thought processes
  6. Accept that it’s okay to be wrong

To train your mind to innovate, you must first become a creative thinker. That means letting go of a lot of preconceptions, assumptions and paint-by-numbers methodologies. Once you have recaptured what it means to be creative, you can then look through your new eyes and begin to search for the innovations awaiting your discovery.