Innovation is a hot topic in business, and it’s not hard to see why. When we think of the most successful companies, the ones that come to mind are often the most innovative ones—think Apple, Amazon, or Tesla. While not all of us are designing the next computer or engineering electric cars, we can all take small steps towards useful innovation. Here are some tips to help guide your next burst of inspiration:
Embrace Failure Ask a leader in the business world, whether it was Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, and they will tell you that failure is part of the innovative process. You have to be prepared to fail, and fail again, and again. Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president for global innovation, says that experimenting is key:
“The whole idea is this: if you really want to be innovative, you have to experiment. If you know the outcome of what you’re going to do, its not an experiment. Its more like a demonstration.”
With Failure Comes Feedback Elon Musk highlights the importance of paying attention to feedback, especially when its negative. Sometimes negative feedback is hard to hear, but its this feedback that will help to shape your innovation. If you can pay attention and fix problems early on, your innovation will be more successful in the long term.
Notice the Small Problems and Fix Them Innovation doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture, sometimes it’s a way of fixing small, overlooked problems. As humans we get desensitized to problems and accept them as a way of life. Tony Fadell, product designer for the original iPod, says that a key part of fixing these small problems is to think younger. We, as adults being used to these problems, tend to ignore them. Children notice problems, ask “Why?” and immediately try to fix them. Sometimes we need to have a beginner’s mind, put aside the reasons why not, and look for an answer independent of what we already know.
Keep Human Nature in Mind When designing products, it’s important to incorporate a human element, especially in regard to usability. Paul Bennet shares the story of designing a piece of technology to allow nurses to input data during surgery. The company commissioning Bennet wanted a device that required two hands, but when shadowing the nurses in surgery, he noticed that they all had one hand occupied by touching the patient’s arm to keep them calm, therefore making a two-handed device unrealistic. By noticing this human element and the way the nurses interacted with the tool, they were able to better design the next version so as only to require one hand for use.
Stay Playful When asked where the name Apple came from, Steve Jobs had a simple answer. He said that he thought the name sounded “fun, spirited, and not intimidating.” When it comes to naming products, sometimes the best answer is the simplest one. Some of the strongest products and companies are the ones with approachable, uncomplicated names.
Innovation can seem intimidating, but sometimes the answers are closer than we think. So keep things simple, keep moving forward, and don’t fear the risks—they could be the next big step for you and your brand.