Creativity and Innovation: Six Ways to Foster Productive Ideas

“The heart and soul of the company is creativity and innovation.” – American businessman Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company.

Success depends on working both hard and smart. Hard work gets things done; smart work boosts your productivity and gives you important things to do. Those who can grow a vast crop of ideas tend to reap high productivity, even if the ideas that survive to harvest prove few and far between.

It only takes one idea to make you rich—or to save your team and organization a fortune. Consider drive-through windows. Band-Aids. The top-down squeeze bottle. Post-It Notes. My favorite management guru, Peter F. Drucker, wrote a whole book titled Innovation and Entrepreneurship for good reason. He saw plainly that innovation and creativity drive individuals and small teams to create start-ups, and drives established businesses into the economic stratosphere.

Feed your subconscious mind with facts, so it can use all the means at its disposal to assemble them into new ideas. Use these methods, among others, to plant your idea-seeds.

  1. Open yourself to everything. Observe closely. Pay attention to both the natural and artificial worlds. Note simple things that have made a huge difference in our lives. Think about gaps you can fill in your work process or market. What do your most effective co-workers and competitors do best? Can you invent another way that works just as well, or better? What do they do worst, so you know what to avoid? If you’re an involved in marketing or sales, examine the ads that never go away. They’re evergreen because they work. How can you apply them to your own your own work habits, or your business in general?

  2. Read Widely. Expand your knowledge base, not just within your field but in others, including fiction. You never know when something from a general science text or a novel may click with another fact to form a full-fledged idea. Knowing some plants accumulate metals in their tissues may combine with another knowledge fragment to provide a way to bio-engineer plants for bioremediation of contaminated areas—or for pulling rare elements from mine tailings.

  3. Cross-pollinate. Existing ideas well known in one field may transfer easily to yours. Modular design, for example, works equally well in computer coding and engineering, making construction and repair of both machines and code easier. Not everything is adaptable as found, but some ideas are; and many need only a few changes to change the world. We’ve never invented an effective flying machine that imitated natural flight directly, but birds taught us to build gliders; and that helped us develop flying machines ranging from balloons to blimps, airplanes to helicopters.

  4. Gain more experience. Experience everything you can. Try new things, even things you don’t think you’ll like. Take a kid fishing. Eat an ethnic food new to you. Go to a technology expo, or even a comics convention. Wander through a mega-hardware store or New Orleans’ French Quarter. Staying home staring at the walls or TV won’t stimulate creativity or innovation. What new electronics are people using? What kinds of apps are popular? How can you leverage new technology in new ways?

  5. Look for patterns. New discoveries and ideas often ripple through different levels of our culture as they’re adapted to new fields and interests. Group computing efforts like Seti@home and protein-folding projects paved the way for crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. Can you identify an idea or technology filtering through our culture and adapt it for use in your industry? Can you develop predictive algorithms based on other patterns people would pay to use?

  6. Redefine problems. We’re taught to reframe problems as challenges. But what if we start right at the basis of what the problem is, and why it’s a problem? Is it a problem to everyone, or just a narrowly defined group? Is it the real problem, or just an effect of the real problem? Provide a solution to fix that. The problem may even be a solution for something else. Petroleum was an annoying by-product of mining—a problem—until someone found a use for it that solved other problems.

The most important factor in fostering a flow of new ideas may be the willingness to do so—caring enough to try. A healthy body and attitude help immeasurably here, though they’re not drop-dead requirements. Just keep thinking. Most of your ideas will never rise out of the muck, but a few will turn out to be gems, once you let them mature and polish them up.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

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  1. Barry Hall says:

    Many thanks Laura for a great post. Much appreciated. — Barry.