I was recently asked to speak in Michigan on the topic of sparking innovation at your credit union.
One of my assertions is that in order to build a culture of innovation, you must first recognize your innovative employees. So how do you spot the innovator in your midst? Here are a few traits to look for:
- Someone with a lot of diverse interests. Innovation is often taking two seemingly non-related things and recognizing the similarities in order to come up with an idea. People with exposure to different things, can do this better.
- Someone who thinks about what the future is going to look like and forms opinions. If you ask most people what the future will hold, they will give some rendition of “more of the same” (or they might say ‘cars will fly’, but that’s a gimme because we all grew up watching the Jetsons). Ask an innovator and they will say all sorts of things that most others think are wacky. Innovators are constantly wondering and hypothesizing about what’s around the next corner. They think about how technology will evolve, how consumer tastes will change and how processes will improve.
- Someone who is not conventional: Innovative people tend to be creative and revel in living a life less than ordinary. Look for the guy wearing the argyle socks.
- Someone who is persuasive and tenacious: It is one thing to come up with good ideas, but the truly innovative person can sell the rest of the company on the idea. Often, selling an idea takes persuasion and tenacity.
- Someone who shrugs off failure: An innovative person often tries things that don’t work. While getting my MBA, I had the opportunity to interview Jim Senegal, founder of Costco. He said his philosophy is to “Try a lot of things. Keep what works and throw out the rest.” Innovators aren’t overly concerned about making missteps. They don’t translate a failed experiment as being a failure themselves.
Once you’ve tagged someone as innovative, keep them in mind when you are trying to solve problems. If you pull innovators into discussions, you’ll engage them and probably find that they come up with a host of solutions that you never would have considered.
Shari Storm is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Verity Federal Credit Union and is the author of the book “Motherhood is the New MBA”, available here: http://www.amazon.com/Motherhood-New-MBA-Parenting-Skills/dp/0312544316/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314126290&sr=1-1