I was discussing innovation at all levels of an organization in a recent executive briefing. I’d mentioned that innovation takes many forms and is needed from people at all levels. It’s more of a mindset than anything; a way of operating. Seeking innovative solutions should be a process that is visible in all aspects of the company.

This might come in the form of an innovative process that replaces an old one, an approach to getting to clients, or a new method of creating awareness. The list goes on and on.The possibilities are endless once the road is paved.

“The day is gone where organizations can survive leaning on the creations of the design engineers to pitch out the next best thing,” I once said in a meeting. Next to me was, well, a design engineer. He jokingly denied what I said for a moment and then conceded that innovation comes in many forms and can come from anyone. His reaction was real and represented the clout that innovators have had, and the challenges organizations face, in getting everyone to operate with an innovation mindset.

Can Anyone Innovate?

Innovators come in different forms, and it’s important to recognize how they’re perceived. Yes, there have been those who have brought forth innovative ideas and have been perceived as innovators. However, there’s also those who possess innovative ideas but are not perceived as such. It’s as if there’s an unwritten rule that says only certain individuals can be perceived as innovators!

And so, like many things worth changing, this will require a lot of work. Most of us will not invent the next iPhone, but this iPhone-like innovation is special because it falls into the category of disruptive innovation.

Dr. Clayton Christensen has helped us understand disruptive innovation which is the form of innovation that creates new markets and eventually rises to disrupt other products or services. Many of us dream of coming up with this type of innovation. Be honest, have you come across a product and said, “I had that idea! Hey, I had THAT idea! That could have been mine.”? Most of us have done this and then have fallen into a fantasy of imagining how different our lives might be if we had, but as it turns out that Einstein guy had it right: Innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

Inspiration = Perspiration

Heather a true innovator is constantly scanning the horizon for ideas that will help her organization grow and improve. She starts her day by pursuing four lists that she follows on Twitter, which includes her favorite authors, publications like Fast Company and Harvard Business Review, Competitors, Business News, and publications she most respects.

One day while reviewing her lists she came to recognize the company’s biggest competitor was doing something very unexpected over the holidays. She quickly checked her findings and began to explore the ramifications and implications of their moves. She brought it to the attention of senior leadership in the morning meeting and it was clear they were unaware of what she had unearthed. We’ve long said this, but I’m not sure we meant it as much as we need to today. Long gone are the days when senior leaders have all the answers. Innovative companies need fully engaged employees, with their high beams on searching for insight, ideas, and innovations that could be the answer to tomorrow’s challenges.

When it comes to driving innovation in organizations, the innovators themselves will definitely need help along the way! Driving innovation is a heavy lifting proposition and there are many pitfalls in which to step.

We’ve got a lot more to talk about, so we’ll end the conversation here, and pick up the part 2 of this post next week.

Until then, I’d like to remind you of our programs for fostering innovation and change within your business: Creating a Mindset for Change, Driving Agility, Innovate and Create: Leverage The Power of Generations, and the Leading Early Talent series.

For more information on these programs — or if you’d like a demo — please contact Laura Goodrich at Laura@GWTNext.com or Greg Stiever at Greg@GWTNext.com