Growing up, my dad always said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” My Hebrew professor in seminary would joke, “Where’s there’s a will, there’s an anxious relative.” My father was trying to instill in me the characteristic of innovation. He had another saying that would make an animal-loving PETA member faint, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Seriously, I never saw my dad come even close to skinning one of our many farm cats. But, he wasn’t afraid to be the first farmer in the area to try a new crop or a state-of-the-art piece of equipment.
In my recent “Most Admired Qualities of a Leader” post, I listed innovative as one of the top seven characteristics needed in a good leader. Leaders find new ways to do things. They don’t settle for status quo. If one way doesn’t work, leaders figure out another way. They lead people to do things better than they’ve been previously done.
Innovation is different than invention or improvement. Invention is more about creating an idea, a method or a product. Improvement is pretty much just doing the same thing better than before. Innovation is the application of new solutions or doing something different when confronted with an obstacle, a problem or a challenge. There’s a familiar saying that defines insanity as “doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.” I’ve watched a lot of people trying to be leaders by just doing the same things they’ve always done but they just try harder and more persistently.
I remember when I moved to Cape Coral, FL over 27 years ago to start Cape Christian. A pastor in another city asked me if I was going to start the church by going door-to-door inviting people to attend the church. He told me that’s what he did in a city up north. I asked him if he had any results. He said, “No, not really.” I asked him how many doors had he knocked on. He said 3,000. So my next question was, “What are you going to try next?” He told me, “I’m going to knock on 10,000 doors.”
Innovation is looking for creative ways to problem solve. If you aren’t seeing positive results with your current approach to reaching customers or managing employees, doing more of the same won’t change a thing. In business and economics, innovation is the catalyst to growth. In today’s fast-paced world, leaders who insist on doing what they’ve always done will get left far behind.
Where’s there a will…there’s a way. Here’s what I’ve been learning. Innovation requires:
Teamwork—When you gather other smart people around you and set your mind to figuring out new solutions to old problems, I’ve discovered there are usually fresh ways to do things that weren’t even on your radar before. And by the way, the lower level people in your organizational structure may hold some of the most creative keys to fresh ideas.
Risk—Innovation always means risk and risk always means a new idea might fail. Innovative leaders create a culture of risk and an expectation that failure is a normal part of success.
Discontent—An innovative leader encourages discontent with business as usual. Most leading-edge innovations come out of dissatisfaction with the status quo and a relentless passion toward breaking new ground.
What are the next steps you need to take to be more innovative? Are there any obstacles in the way? If so, what’s one step you can take today to find an innovative solution?
QUESTION: What would you add as a requirement to being innovative? Please share it below.