Innovate, Or Go Home

How much new value did you provide your organization today? Did you suggest creative ways to go about a common task that resulted in better outcomes? Are your work behaviors keeping you relevant? If these questions are not top of mind for you yet, they will be. Your future gainful employment may depend on being able to answer them with resounding positivity. Intrigued? Read on.

Much of the discourse on innovation has been focused on that which takes place within the enterprise. Innovation as a personal behavior has not nearly received the attention it deserves. For one thing, it is imminently relevant and personal to every American and not simply an abstract concept that they can mostly only observe and barely influence. In previous blogs I’ve argued that enterprise innovation is increasingly essential, but I’ve not addressed the most intimate of all innovation: that of personal innovation.

So what is personal innovation? It contains much of the same elements of organizational innovation: qualities such as converting ideas into value; creating new ways of doing things; and creative problem solving. It’s about taking these concepts and applying them in a personal, individual manner. Testing personal innovation is about asking these types of questions and answering in a position fashion: Do I add new and increasingly more value each day? Do I use creative thinking to solve complex problems? Am I perceived by others as an innovator in how I go about my work? And one of my favorites: Am I looking for ways to regularly reinvent and brand myself consistent with the needs of my organization or the marketplace in general?

The author Daniel Pink (link) argues convincingly that the future of employment in American will increasingly rely on qualitative right-brained thinking.  That is, thinking that is highly creative in nature and not that of the left-brain which is rooted in repetitive, process-driven activities. The premise is that left-brained work is ripe for outsourcing since it can be easily replicated outside of the U.S. Right-brained activities on the other hand; tasks such as creative problem solving and idea generation are difficult to package and ship offshore and therefore hold the key to gainful employment in the long-term.

Those in left-brained work must consider whether an evolution to right-brained work makes sense.  In our new business environment reality, personal innovation becomes paramount. If you aren’t creating new value, if you aren’t reinventing yourself on a regular basis, and if you’re not being creative in how you approach problems, you are certainly increasing the possibility that you may become irrelevant. And if you’re irrelevant you might as well go home. And that, my readers, is my point; future success in our post-industrial society will rely on each of us innovating as a core behavior. Therefore, it’s completely possible that If you’re not innovating, you might as well do yourself a favor and go home.

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