Innovation isn't just an “out of the box” mindset.
Thinking Differently! If you think differently, you will act differently. You will innovate.
Leaders like George Douglas, Indiana Beverage, and Cindy Hedge, Center of Creative Solutions, are among those who embrace this Applesque concept when approaching challenges to the marketplace. Indeed, they helped shape it.
This approach to problem solving isn't just another variation of “out of the box” thinking. It is a change in mindset that O'Merrial Butchee, director of Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center, describes as “The Fuel for Taking Flight.”
In fact, when Ivy Tech's Butchee introduced Apple's classic “Think Different” commercial at the April 14 event at the Purdue Northwest center in Hammond, the packed audience applauded as if seeing the iconic campaign for the first time. The ad highlighted the so-called “crazy ones” like Muhammad Ali, Amelia Earhart and Thomas Edison. Indeed, it is a key reason that Apple and Steve Jobs remain recognizable today.
This unique event was cosponsored by The Society of Innovators of Ivy Tech Community College in partnership with the Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center of Purdue University Northwest. Our panelists shared the benefits of deploying creative ideas as innovations for new products, services and efficiencies in today's competitive world.
Actually, as far back as 2006, Ivy Tech chose “Thinking Differently” as a bridge to students, staff, faculty and the community. Here's what we've learned from “thinking differently” about innovation:
* It's learned behavior. Knowing your field of expertise and having diverse experiences are critical. The more you know, the better you are prepared to identify connections between ideas.
* Innovation is breaking from the status quo. It's a departure from the way we do things: putting ideas together that, at first, seem incompatible. Think about putting a spade and knife together, resulting in a cake server.
* It's often a result of a “creative collision.” That is, creativity is an original idea that comes when an individual “collides” with his or her environment. Or two or more individuals spark ideas off one another.
* It's about seeking a solution, fixing a problem, or anticipating a need. Simply, creativity is coming up with an original idea, or using an existing idea in a new way, then implementing it.
So what are some “starters” to help you in “Thinking Differently” to develop new products, services and efficiencies for your organization?
Starter #1: Need for Change. A creative solution is often a response to a problem or particular difficulty. And just because you fail the first time, keep trying. Psychologist Adam Grant, who studies thinkers that dream up great ideas, says they fail the most. Why? They try the most.
Starter #2: Discoveries. Most of us think innovation is thinking outside the box. Albert Einstein suggested that all innovation is discovery. Just as you look at outer space with wonder, look at your own workspace with wonder. I'm serious. Allow ideas to sneak up on you as you open your mind to new discoveries in your own workspace.
Starter #3: Solution. As you come up with your solution, think of “association solutions.” When the late Ralph Braun tried to get his wheelchair into his used Jeep, he told me he remembered that pickup trucks had lifts attached to tailgates. That inspired him to jury-rig a lift to go up and down on his Jeep. So began Braun's revolution of building ramps for minivans that now give freedom to wheelchair users on four continents.
Some leaders describe this capacity as the ability to see around corners. Others say it is seeing beyond headlights. We say Thinking Differently is the Fuel for Taking Flight! If you think differently, you'll see opportunities that others miss. So, welcome to your new frontier to win markets!
John Davies is assistant director in the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center, Ivy Tech. He is the founding managing director of The Society of Innovators, the largest project of the Lamkin Center.