Innovation is the force that drives human progress. It has taken us out of the cave and into houses, cars and aeroplanes. Innovation has created Wi-Fi, smartphones, beach towels and whatever you are reading this on. The ever increasing pace of change in the world is exciting, but also scary, because it means that almost everything that you do now in your business, no matter how brilliant, cutting edge and state of the art, is soon going to be out-dated. 2012's world's best practice isn't going to cut it in 2020, just as world's best practice in 2004 wouldn't cut it now.
The way to ensure your business is in good shape in the future is to ensure that you are constantly innovating. That is, that everyone who works in the business is constantly trying to work out how to do things better.
I met hundreds of inventors and innovators while hosting 'The New Inventors', and there are three things that they do better than the rest of us.
The first is that they think. You probably think you spend your whole day thinking. That's why you're so tired. But do you? A lot of people don't have time to think because they're so busy coping, reacting and responding: coping with problems, reacting to requests and demands, and responding to email, other people, the phone and the other phone.
We should all try to find some time each day to think about how we can improve what we do. During your working day make a note of any problems that pop up, and any opportunities you suspect you might not be taking full advantage of. Then turn off your phone and spend some uninterrupted time thinking about them. Find some time to just think every day. Prioritise it. It can be the most important work that we do.
The second thing inventors and innovators do is that when they have ideas, they treat them as something valuable. No one knows whether an idea is any good when they first have it. Every great idea started out sounding like a weird idea. The only way to find out if an idea is any good is to grow it, nurture it, and see where it takes you. Maybe it will end up being a dud, but how are you going to know, unless you give it a go? Dozens of people have said to me, 'that thing you had on 'The New Inventors' last week. I had that idea years ago.' It's great to have an idea, but that is just the beginning. You need to do something with it.
Thirdly, inventors and innovators test their ideas. They develop them, they refine them, they trial them and, if they work, they implement them. If they don't work, they learn from the experience, put it behind them and get on with thinking of the next thing.
Innovation is not something that only geniuses, experts and those who work in the innovation department can do. It is something that we all can do, and it's something that we all should do.