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The 3 P's of Mindful Innovation

What I wish I Would Have Known Before Joining the Innovation Team

By Matt Mueller

Being asked to develop and join the innovation team was such an honor. After spending five years in the innovation capacity for a corporation I learned so much. And what I thought innovation was on day 1 was not what I learned innovation to be on day 1,825. I shared my experience with InnoLead in detail my dramatic paradigm shift and listed out what, Brand Storytelller Lisa Rothstein, says is “the touchstone of reality at the start of any project.”

Man meditating in office

What Innovation Is Not

Innovation is not about forward-thinking technology and applying to every aspect of your business or customer experience. At first, I thought we needed to have robots and lasers everywhere turning reality into a Sci-Fi movie for anything that we came up with to be labeled innovation. I also, read every philosophy and process in any recommended book that I could get my hands on.

What I realized, was that I was chasing my thoughts, unable to make clear decisions because I was always worried about “failing fast,” “innovating or dying,” or “disrupting before I became disrupted.” It made me move projects in a direction just for movement’s sake. My mind would race in 20 different directions, and I was unable to think straight. It remined a lot like when I first starting using a smartphone. I would get so many notifications and consume every ounce of content available that I was sucked into the phone. I would put my phone down and I couldn’t think straight, listen or be present in the moment. I turned to meditation to become more mindful in life. I knew I needed to approach innovation in the same way; mindfully.

"The philosophy of "disrupting before I became disrupted" made me move projects in a direction just for movement's sake."

The 3P's of Mindful Innovation

Taking a beat to think about what I was doing in the moment was enriching. I stopped reading so many books and worrying about trying to disrupt at every turn, and instead lived in the moment and reflected on how we might innovate simply. The quiet reflection allowed me to really think through what I was doing. I would take 30 minutes of quiet time — no phone, no emails, just my thoughts — and think about the following 3 P’s of Mindful Innovation:

Ask yourself the following questions before starting any project:

  • Where are we going? When you know which direction to head, you can start planning. Be as specific as possible. Are you going to stay on top of emerging consumer trends? Or are you going to find the next viable business model?
  • Why are we doing this? Is your end goal worth it, and will it inspire others? As an example, you are searching for the next viable business model to remain relevant in your market. That’s likely a goal that will get people engaged if they see risks to your current positioning.
  • Who is going with us? How will we get there? As your team assembles and gains new knowledge, these answers may change, but always define the who and the how, and align them with your first two questions.

2. Be Practical

Everyone wants to be disruptive, and create the next iPhone of their industry. Disruptive innovation is great for creating inspiration and launching startups. But in the context of the day-to-day in a large corporation, innovation must be balanced with practicality. What can you innovate that can be used by the company tomorrow?

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“In the context of the day-to-day in a large corporation, innovation must be balanced with practicality.”

Short-term, practical innovation will build momentum for the innovation team because people can see the progress. Leveraging that progress will make it easier to find innovation partners on both incremental and disruptive ventures.

Innovation is a team sport. When looking for collaborations to bring your innovation team to new heights, consider three participant groups: 

  • Executive Sponsors: Provide scheduled updates, get them involved with the initial workshop, and allow them to provide feedback along the way.
  • Cross-Functional Partners: Who needs to be involved with your project early on? Pull in experts in area you are exploring, or the people who will be handed the baton once the innovation is ready to launch.
  • Consumers: Plan for the consumer voice to be heard loud and clear throughout the process, because once you launch, you need someone to buy your offering. Listen to consumers on the front end of the project to ensure you understand their problems and how they would use your innovation. Check in with them along the way to make sure that the progress makes sense. And never, ever think that you know what the consumer wants. The truth is, neither you nor colleagues in the organization have a 100 percent accurate “gut feel” for consumer behavior. Don’t take the consumer for granted.

Participation is key to making any innovation successful, but it needs to be active participation. This means that you’re not “talking at them.” There needs to be two-way engagement throughout the process. As the innovator, you need to actively listen to all of your participant groups, make sure you understand them, and take into account their feedback and adjust accordingly.

Innovation can be overwhelming, confusing, complicated — if you let it. Consuming an excessive amount of content while you are learning to innovate can cause “monkey brain innovation,” or a lack of focus and unclear expectations. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone in your organization that wants to work with you. By using mindfulness techniques, you can slow down, and zero in on the truly important factors for successful innovation.

Learn more about my story and the pitfalls of starting a culture of innovation at InnoLead, What I Wish I Knew Before I Joined the Innovation Team.

Innovator Matt Mueller

Matt Mueller

Thanks for reading! My goal is to provide an insightful, simplified, point of view on innovation, CX and insights to help you create positive change in everything you do. 

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