The Innovation Cycle

img_20170124_204454_767Innovation is hard work and its application can be difficult if one lacks a blueprint. Daily, leaders grapple with constant change and the question persists: what does it take to be innovative? This question led me to develop a simple framework to help entrepreneurs and business leaders understand how innovation works. I call it: the innovation cycle. There are four stages to it and they are:

Questions: Innovation starts here. If no one is asking questions, nothing gets better. Hence, questions are the root of innovation. It’s usually not a big idea or budget, but a simple question. “What if?” “Why is it?” “How about?” “Why?” The innovation hype makes people skip this vital step of deep questioning. Often, people are busy looking for the ‘big’ idea. Well, innovation is in the small questions.

Vulnerability: Generally, we are uncomfortable with inquiry because questions make us vulnerable. It forces us to think deeply – especially about our blind spots. When vulnerable, we feel out of control, look or feel stupid and our egos could be bruised or crushed. This is where innovation is fought and often killed.

People know that, most times, change is good. They understand the benefits of innovation. But usually, they can’t stand the discomfort of vulnerability that comes with the innovation process. Questions will reveal weaknesses and people don’t like it.

That’s why you may be perceived by your boss as having an ‘attitude’ when you start questioning their business decisions. This is the emotional aspect of innovation which should be taken seriously. It is one reason a perfectly good idea is fought or crushed and we wonder why. Perhaps, someone feels challenged by vulnerability.

Learning: If you’re lucky to arrive here, innovation is likely. At this stage, you’ve survived being vulnerable and you’re ready to unlearn and relearn. If a business leader is able to fight through vulnerability and its associated emotions, suddenly the mind opens up to a new world of possibilities.

This means you no longer view questions as a personal attack. You admit that you don’t know and you’re willing to know. Your ideas are challenged and put to the test and you’re fine with it because you know you’ll grow.

Change: Innovation hasn’t occurred if nothing changes. The process is supposed to produce a different, better way of doing things, no matter how small. Change is the proof of innovation – a sign that you’re learning and growing.

Now, repeat.


How to Effectively Manage Your Time

wp-1482444118209.jpgAttention is in short supply. That’s the down side of the information age. There’s just so much to focus on and the demand on our time is crazy. Now, all you need to be busy is a smart phone. Also, we’re constantly interrupted; distraction is a battle.

Sadly, more time isn’t added as we get busier. We’re still constrained by twenty-four hours. Consequently, good time management is a skill essential to our sanity. It’s simply not practical to satisfy all the demands on our time.

Just like you, I face this battle daily. So I’ve researched, tried different time management tools and discovered one that’s particularly effective for me – it’s my favorite. Perhaps, it would work for you. It’s a small negative word.


Negative Word, Positive Effect

The word is: NO. It’s a life saver. Those who have mastered its usage are able to conserve some energy. Over time, I’ve consciously strengthened my ‘no’ muscles. I say it politely, but the message is always clear.

I fell in love with this word because I realized that it’s one of the most practical ways to manage your time. I’m not a sadist and derive no pleasure in declining requests; however, a few of those requests are truly important.

Effectiveness is the sliver of positivity to this little negative word. It’s difficult to say yes to every request and stay sharp. You’re not designed for every opportunity and you can’t solve all of humanity’s challenges. Though, culture, loved ones and other factors make us feel like our attention is needed everywhere. It’s not. NO may not be the easiest tool to use, but it will shield you from the ‘attack’ on your time.


Train Others to Respect Your Time

People treat your time the way you train them – that’s how it works. If you have a flexible relationship with time (you’re comfortable with lateness or disregard the clock), those around you will relate to you accordingly. It’s your time and we need to know how we should interact with your time – and the only person who can give us that information is you.

You don’t have to go around hurling “no” at people. But the word can be applied as a lifestyle or a functional time management system. A person’s attitude towards time can become the standard by which they interact with others. For instance, you probably have a friend who keeps to time and in order to maintain your relationship, you’ve had to adjust your time attitude. You’ve been trained by your friend.

What’s your time reputation? If you can build a good one, you’ll naturally say no to many distractions because your focus will be clear to all and more often than not, people align.


Learn to Quit

In his eBook, Shave 10 Hours Off Your Workweek, the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Michael Hyatt, said “We need to cultivate the habit of non-finishing. Not every project you start is worth finishing. Sometimes we get into it and realize, “This is a waste of time.” So give yourself permission to quit.” This is so refreshing; it’s one of the best time management tips I’ve heard.

I’m not telling you to be a quitter. But some things are just learning curves and you’ll realize at some point that letting go is best for you because the lesson is done. You don’t have to be trapped by the thinking that you must finish everything. You can say “no” midway – and as you get skilled at using this small beautiful word, you’ll get better at knowing what to finish and what to quit.

Happy New Year🎉