I’ve never been big on New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t find them very motivating and apparently I’m not alone, judging by the number of people who crowd into my health club in January who are gone by April. Resolutions just don’t stick with me. So I’ve been musing about finding an innovative way to practice this tradition. The answer I’ve come up with: Instead of a New Year’s Resolution, why not a New Year’s Vision?
One of the principal challenges any innovator faces is persuading others of the value of an idea. It is a frequent source of frustration and angst, and an absolutely essential innovation skill.
“There are no facts about the future.” I don’t know who first said that, but I keep coming across it lately and I agree. It’s not possible to draw factual conclusions about things that haven’t happened yet (although that doesn’t stop us from trying)...which raises an interesting question: How useful are facts in evaluating innovative ideas?
When it comes to innovation, making good predictions isn’t about trying to discern where the world is headed as much as where we might take the world. It’s an imaginative process (often just as imaginative as coming up with ideas in the first place). Innovation is not about predicting the future we’re expecting but rather achieving the future we want to create.
The way we drive (or should drive) is a good analogy for innovative thinking. Like a alert driver, great innovators are those who can see problems coming, who have a heightened sense of awareness and possibility. This is not just an on demand capability, but a sustained frame of mind. They’re proactively looking for potential improvements they can make and problems they can avoid.
There’s something remarkably powerful about a good story. It can take the driest of facts and breathe life into them, and it can do the same thing with an idea. Skilled innovators take their ideas and turn them into stories, often reshaping their assumptions and beliefs in the process.
When we stop using our imagination and fail to constantly pursue fresh insights, frankly, we become a road hazard, a danger to both ourselves and our business. Sticking with the status quo may seem safe but in a changing marketplace it’s a strategy that’s almost certain to fail. Are you looking out the windshield or relying on what you see behind you?
What is it about goals that makes them such a valuable tool? The simplistic answer is, “So you know where you’re going.” Certainly, any leader needs to have objectives. But a more enlightening answer to the “Why?” question is: Because defined outcomes provide clarity.