“If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.”
These words were spoken by Henry Ford, creator of the Ford Model T car in 1908 and one of America’s most influential industrialists in the twentieth century. This quote is a testament to Ford’s spirit of innovation and refusal to go along with popular opinion, which thankfully led to one of the most omnipresent and useful inventions in human history – the motor vehicle. His story of inspired invention proves that thinking outside of the box can yield great rewards.
Going against the grain. Breaking the mold. Venturing off the beaten path.
No matter how you spin it, “innovation” – a new idea, device, method, or the use of said new idea, device or method - is born from creativity, questioning our current realities and having the courage to be different from the crowd.
But depending on who you ask, innovation is interpreted differently by the masses. In the 21st century, it’s common to hear the term used to describe the latest and greatest technological advances and gadgets, like the iPhone, 3D printing, Smart TVs and so, so much more. As said by Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, “The characteristic of great innovators and great companies is they see a space that others do not. They don’t just listen to what people tell them; they actually invent something new, something that you didn’t know you needed, but the moment you see it, you say, ‘I must have it.’”
“Innovative” is a word sometimes used to describe the greatest minds in history, like the Wright Brothers, Leonardo da Vinci, Nikola Tesla and many others. Though their achievements are wildly different, they were all thought to be a bit crazy by the people in their time. Little did all the naysayers know, these masterminds were simply thinking far beyond the general knowledge of their day, and maybe a little “crazy” afforded them the power to view the world in a whole new light and innovate like the world had never seen before. The Wright Brothers, da Vinci and Tesla were, at some point, just ordinary people with extraordinary ideas – which proves that anyone can innovate with the right tools to develop a creative process to be implemented anywhere at any time.
Need some concrete, real-world tips to motivate and inspire innovation on those days when a new perspective seems impossible? We’ve got you covered. Below are some uncomplicated and straightforward ways to hone your own innovation.
Ask and answer leading questions
Try slowing down the anxious chatter in your own head to focus on answering a handful of specific and purposeful questions to tactfully practice daily innovative thinking. These 7 Essential Innovation Questions created by the Innovation Genome Project will poke and prod your brain – in a good way – as you jot down answers to questions like “what could we look at with a new perspective, or in a new way?”…“what could we interconnect, maybe for the first time ever?”…what could we imagine to create a great experience for someone?” And, as many questions in this life usually do, answering the above 7 targeted questions may introduce even more questions, hypotheses, or viewpoints that you never anticipated – and then the innovation game continues on and on!
Quirky’s community will be sure to inspire
The community of innovators, inventors, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and more available through Quirky’s unique online forum offers a truly unparalleled opportunity to brainstorm, receive feedback on ideas, and discover endless cyber paths of inspiration and perspectives – all with just a couple clicks. Another potentially inspiring experience for innovators offered exclusively through Quirky is their live weekly “Eval” sessions, where the Quirky community presents and votes on their favorite invention for that week. What better way to inspire innovation than to see other folks like yourself sharing their creative concepts and possibly even striking gold if their invention is chosen and pitched to Quirky’s big-name brand partners, or even produced by Quirky itself?!
Try something completely new
For example, if you've never painted anything more than a straight black line, signing up for a couple of painting classes at a local art studio might be just the thing to get your creative juices flowing as you fill a canvas with the inner workings of your imagination. You might even kill two birds with one stone: 1) you'll literally be exercising your imagination by unlocking a new part of your brain experimenting with color, shape, shadow and brush stroke techniques and 2) you'll be practicing a little fearlessness while allowing for the reality that your painting might not be the next Picasso piece - or could even be a total wreck! The purpose of learning something new is not to be perfect, but to throw caution to the wind and just paint. See what happens. You may be surprised at what new ideas and musings crop up. A painting class is just one of infinite ways you can work out your creative muscle while also having fun, meeting new people, and expanding your viewpoints.
Quiet down and let inspiration in
Meditation and mindfulness might seem counterintuitive to actively innovating – how can sitting still and doing literally nothing but paying attention to your breathing create innovation? The idea is not to forcefully create the innovative idea itself, but to create space in our heads and quiet down all the pointless and sometimes negative self-talk in order to allow creativity to flow in. If that’s too much quiet time for you, try a “moving meditation” approach like a walking meditation, yoga to get a little exercise while you clear your head. Setting a daily mindfulness routine may also help to alleviate the stress of discovering an innovative idea, promoting a greater sense of calm and focus. After being in stillness for a while, jot down any new musings that come to mind!
A world without innovation in all its various forms is a world frozen in time, problems and all. Therefore, innovation is crucial for our survival and our progress in this life. So the next time you feel like you're just not cut out for the innovation game, think again – it’s part of human nature to create a new! Try one of or all of these tips and see how quickly an innovative notion sparks within you. You simply need the right tools, some patience and a bit of focused inspiration.