Welcome to the 21 Day Innovation Challenge. Each day I will provide one small tip or action step you can take to help you start incorporating innovation into your business. As we go on this 21 day journey, you will learn a system for developing innovative ideas, protecting those ideas, and using the innovations to grow your business. If you follow the daily activities, you will be surprised at the ideas you discover over the next 21 days and maybe even realize that you are more creative than you thought!
These activities are perfect for solo entrepreneurs, contractors, and employees. Everyone can benefit from a boost in creativity!
This blog post will be updated each day during the 21 Day Innovation Challenge. If you miss a day, you can always catch up the next day.
You can access this article at the same link every day: http://21DayInnovationChallenge.com
There’s no cost to participate in the challenge. I encourage you to invite your friends and co-workers.
Please leave comments below to share your insights and experiences. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments – I will personally answer all questions.
OK, let’s get started….
For Day 1, I have two simple activities for you. These activities are important to set the foundation for the following 20 days. Here are your Day 1 activities:
- Clear out any negative thoughts about whether you are creative. I’ve worked with thousands of people with all types of backgrounds, education, and experience. The one consistent thing among all these people: Every person has the ability to develop unique and creative ideas! Go into this challenge with an open mind about innovation and your own creativity. I will show you a system for activating your creative energy and developing innovative ideas. Trust me!
- Get ready to record all of your brilliant ideas. Many of your creative ideas will pop into your head when you least expect it. Be ready to record those ideas immediately. Here are my favorite tools for quickly capturing your “flashes of brilliance”:
- Smartphone – Use the notes app, email the idea to yourself, leave yourself a voicemail message, or text the idea to yourself.
- Paper and Pen – Yes, this is old fashioned, but it works! Keep a pad of paper and pen in your car, on your nightstand (for those middle-of-the-night ideas), or wherever you have your best ideas. It only takes 15 seconds to jot down your idea.
- Shower – If you’re like most people, you get lots of great ideas in the shower. But, your smartphone and paper/pen don’t work there. One solution is a product called AquaNotes® – they’re like Post-it® brand notes, but you can write on them when they are wet. They mount to the wall of your shower with suction cups. It’s a great invention and “prevents your ideas from going down the drain!”
That’s all for Day 1. Work on these two activities so you’re ready to keep making progress tomorrow.
Welcome to Day 2! Today I want to provide a couple definitions of innovation. Two common definitions are: “The introduction of something new” and “Modification of an existing product, service or process.” Note than an innovation is not necessarily a revolutionary new product or service like a self-driving car or a surgical robot. A valuable innovation can be a small improvement to an existing product or a modification of a business processes that improves the efficiency of your organization.
As I mentioned in Day 1, everyone has creative skills and is capable of generating innovative ideas. In my experience with thousands of clients, I’ve seen brilliant ideas from people in every part of an organization. In many cases, innovation starts with identifying problems or issues you want to solve. For example, if you work for a company, the problem may be a customer service issue where customers don’t understand how to use a specific product feature. If you are an online entrepreneur or a member of a small group of entrepreneurs, you may be experiencing issues with certain business processes, such as managing outsourced projects. Any type of problem or issue can be a starting point for innovative activity.
Your one activity for today is to spend 5-10 minutes making a list of problems or issues that need to be solved in your business (whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or work for a company as an employee or contractor). You may not be the person responsible for solving the problem. But, for now, just record the problems or issues that you think of or that you observe as you go about your daily activities.
As you think about these “problems” or “issues,” I want you to start referring to them as “innovation opportunities.” So, what used to generate negative thoughts (a problem) is now reframed as a positive thought: it provides an opportunity to innovate and improve your business. For now, spend some time recording these new innovation opportunities – we will come back to this list in a few days.
Have you experienced any “idea pops” yet? That situation where an idea just “pops” into your head and you have no idea where it came from. I know this is only Day 3 of the Challenge and we haven’t even started talking about the idea generation process. But, I’ve noticed that when people start writing down innovation opportunities (formerly known as “problems”), their subconscious mind starts working on those opportunities. And, when you least expect it, a solution to the “problem” just pops into your mind.
If this has already happened for you, that’s fantastic! You did record the idea, right? If it hasn’t happened for you yet, be patient, it WILL happen. I’ve worked with lots of people, and every one of them can tell me about fantastic ideas that just came to them “out of nowhere.”
Today’s activity is to continue looking for “opportunities to innovate” (formerly known as “problems”). Some great places to find these opportunities: talk to people who handle customer service issues, read what journalists say about your company and its products, ask for customer feedback, and talk to other people on your team (such as co-workers and contractors).
Add these new opportunities to your list. And, keep building your habit of seeing opportunities instead of “problems” or “complaints.” Try to identify at least five additional opportunities from the sources mentioned above. We will use this list of opportunities in a few days.
How’s your list of Opportunities to Innovate coming along? Today I’m going to give you some Magic Words to listen for. When you hear these Magic Words, pay attention because the person speaking (or writing) these words is giving you a gift – an opportunity to innovate. Here are a few of these Magic Words:
“I wish there was a way to …”
“I’m frustrated with …”
“Why is it so difficult to …”
“Why doesn’t someone create a …”
“I wish someone would fix …”
When you hear any of these phrases, you’re being given a chance to innovate. Add these ideas to your list! Your activity for today is to start listening for these magic words (especially when they relate to your business), and add them to your list.
Tomorrow you will pick one of your “opportunities to innovate” and start developing innovative solutions.
Over the past few days, you have been creating a list of innovation opportunities. Today you are going to start developing innovative ideas that address one of your innovation opportunities.
Think of your innovation opportunities as “innovation seeds.” These innovation seeds are the starting point to great ideas, but you need to nurture and cultivate those seeds. To get started, pick one of your innovation opportunities – one that is of greatest interest to you or is an important issue in your business. You can always switch to a different innovation opportunity later, but pick one to start with.
Your activity for today: find a block of time (start with 5-10 minutes) to think about the opportunity you selected. Preferably, your block of time is free of distractions – silence your phone, turn off email/social media notifications on your computer and, if necessary, close the door to keep people from disturbing you. Focus on the opportunity and think of any way to solve the problem you are addressing. Reflect on how you previously solved similar issues or think about how others in your organization have resolved different issues. Record every idea you think of – don’t dismiss any ideas, just record them using pen/paper, note application, etc. Don’t analyze or judge the ideas, just get them recorded.
When you’re done with your 5-10 minute session, and you go back to your regular activities, your subconscious mind will continue to create more ideas. So, keep your pen/paper or other recording device handy to capture these additional ideas. I’ve worked with many people who come up with their best ideas a day or two after the initial session.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow I will show you a specific technique for finding additional ideas that can solve the innovation opportunity you’re working on.