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Innovation … it’s a buzzword you hear so often you don’t even react to it anymore. The German Zukunftsinstitut (“Future Institute”) even speaks about “Innovation Terror.” Michael O’Bryan calls it the “buzzword of the decade,” which has “led to a loss of understanding of what it is we need when we say we need more innovation.” Therefore, most of what is considered innovation culture is rather innovation theater. Is that not so?

We all know innovation is welcome. Companies encourage their employees to innovate, but there never seems to be enough time to do so. And if there is time, how does one find a glorious new idea in that moment? You can’t simply reschedule all meetings to have a free afternoon, then sit and wait for a spark of inspiration that will revolutionize our lives—the next iPhone or flying car won’t be born in exactly those moments. And let’s not even go into all the change-killing rules and defined processes, especially within companies that have grown beyond the startup stage. Meanwhile, we choose to focus on the day job and get home early enough to tell the kids a bedtime story.

What is innovation?

What do we actually mean when we say “innovation?” Do we truly understand what it means? A great idea, for sure—something that will change things for the better, making them prettier, simpler, cheaper, faster, and so on. No pressure!

In reality, innovation does not mean one huge idea that will fly us to Mars and change the world overnight. Rather, it refers to many small steps, many small sparks, and the acknowledgment that even small ideas are big enough. This cannot be limited to a certain time, workshop, or location. We don’t need to wait for someone to create an innovation process for us. It is enough to simply to allow ourselves the freedom to question things, to step back and look at the big picture, and to constantly ask ourselves, “Does what I am doing make sense?” It means pulling ourselves out of the comfort zone and taking a stand for something better, or discussing ideas with others over coffee or a walk in the forest. Often it starts jokingly and then turns into something really cool. In other words: Innovation is a mindset!

Change the way you look at things

American psychologist Wayne Dyer once said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” If we allow ourselves to question things with the intention of making them better, we will transform and innovate, slowly but surely. If this becomes a habit, our biggest ideas will arise and transform into creative change.

Such a mindset is rewarding, not only because of the new ideas, but also because you will own what you do and move from a passive position into a proactive one. Cut the noise and focus on what is important. This approach frees up the mind and creates space and time for things that matter.

 

This article originally appeared on Digitalist Magazine, in the Future of Work section. See here.

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