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While just one revolutionary idea can turn an industry on its head and brand a business as innovative, usually it is the combination of the little things that a business owner does -- or stops doing -- that brings about its ability to truly be innovative.
So how can you consistently be more innovative when it comes to your business? As a coach, I’ve found that when my clients make a concerted effort to practice the habits listed below, they begin to see their role differently and discover with those “little things” that can help propel them and their businesses forward.
1. Ask the right question.
Anyone can ask, “How do we increase sales?” or “What do our customers want?” But, by asking variations on the common questions, you start to approach problems, issues and opportunities with a different mindset. “Do we have the right sales force for this type of customer?” or “What do our customers want, but don’t realize yet?” are questions asked by entrepreneurs who are laying the foundation for innovation.
Ask questions that challenge everyone’s thinking in new ways. Resist the urge to continue asking common questions that only produce stale ideas that have been recycled repeatedly. Asking the right questions lead you down paths that open new ways of thinking about your business. Learn how to ask them.
2. Put yourself on the frontline.
When you were starting out, working on the frontline was a necessity. You wore most, if not all, of the hats. You had a front row seat to where the fulfillment of your product or service took place. You interacted with the customers. You knew your customers’ wants and concerns. You knew what meant most to them. As your business grew and you became more successful, you removed yourself from the frontline to focus on more strategic tasks. There was nothing wrong with that.
However, have you considered that your business grew so much over those years was because you were on the frontlines regularly? Being in the trenches allows you to hear the customers’ stories and see the little things that can make a big difference. Make time to go back there and see the frontline with a new set of eyes.
3. Don’t just do something, stand there.
Your work ethic and commitment to get things done is a huge contributor to the success of your business. However, all that busyness can be an obstacle when it comes to being an innovative entrepreneur.
Innovative entrepreneurs regularly push back from the desk to do nothing. Actually, it isn’t “nothing” in the truest sense of the word, but they know the value of taking time to think. They ponder. They daydream. They meditate. They know doing so will help them receive flashes of inspiration towards solving long-standing problems or even anticipating an opportunity before anyone else can see it.
At first, this practice may feel foreign and awkward to you (that’s why most people don’t do it) but stick with it. Being comfortable with not being busy all the time allows you to recognize ideas that were already there, but couldn’t be heard because you’re too busy with everything else.
4. Create a state of “flow.”
Coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “flow” is a state where an individual is so completely engaged in an activity that it becomes effortless and time seems to disappear. Others have described it as being in the zone or in a groove.
While it is impossible to describe all that goes into creating a state of flow here, understand that creating it resides within your ability to pursue clear goals that challenge your strengths.
There are activities that you do well and others in which you excel. By setting goals around the latter and making time to pursue those goals on a regular basis, you will create your best and most innovative work.
Speaking of using your strengths, be sure to…
5. Let others use their own strengths as well.
We view the world through our own biases and experiences. As a result, we tend to think our way is the right way and in extreme cases, the only way. However, if you want to run an innovative business, you need to let others use their strengths as well.
To do this, you first need to recognize your staff’s strengths. At Entrepreneur Coaching, we created the Entrepreneur Success Profile, powered by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, to help clients not only discover how they prefer to work, but to help them recognize and understand the preferences of their employees as well. Knowing this allows our coaching clients to lead their staff the way they need to be led.
Innovative leaders give others the permission and resources to solve problems according to their strengths. They know that by doing so, innovations are born and the business reimagined in a way that never could have happened if they dictated all the steps.