Five ways to create innovation throughout your life

Updated: September 13, 2009

When innovation is brought up in a business context, we mostly think about, well, the business. We think of innovations related to products, business models, go-to-market strategies and the like.

But your business strategy is just one of many places where the right innovation approach can create incredible, positive changes in your life. Imagine what would happen if you made a specific point to innovate elsewhere?

Here are five specific places and contexts in your personal and professional life that, with the same approach to innovation, can make you happier, more fulfilled and more successful.

1. Innovate Your Career

Are you doing what you want to do? Are you learning new things every day? Do you feel comfortably challenged with the work on your plate? If not, it may be time to try something new.

If you were starting your career from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently? What risks would you take? How hard would you work in a different direction to achieve the job, the career or the business you dream of today?

What do you really want to be doing in five years? 10 years? Whatever that vision is, what do you need to do right now, this month, or at least before the end of the year to make progress towards that dream?

Playing with your career can mean playing with your livelihood, which is of course scary. But you spend at least 40 hours a week at work, working effectively on your career.

2. Innovate Your Management Style

How are you making your direct reports as productive, successful and satisfied as possible? For those who don't work directly with you, how are you enabling them as best as possible to achieve their goals, and make both you and the company overall perform better?

Are you actively mentoring future leaders inside your company? How about outside? When you get requests for your time to help someone learn - whether or not they work directly for you - do you take the time to do it?

Do you actively use recognition strategies to praise and motivate your team? Not just bonuses and coffee gift cards, but do those you work with know on a regular basis that you value their work?

Think hard about how you would be best learn, innovate and be motivated as an employee, and make sure you're innovating your management style to match that. Better yet, ask your employees directly how they learn, how they innovate, and how they’re motivated, and match that.

3. Innovate Your Personal Life

You do have a life outside of work, right? If not, let's start there. How are you staying balanced and refreshed so that you're working at your peak while on the job, but also living a rich, fulfilling life away from the office?

Put pen to paper and inventory the things you wish you had more time to do. If they're important enough, you'll make time for at least a handful.

What are the things you want to do in the next five years? Before you die? What are you doing right now to make those things possible? If you don't act now (or at least prepare to act), you'll never take advantage of the things you really want to be doing.

Explore that personal itch. Meet new people. Try new things. Mix things up.

4. Innovate Your Relationships

Think about the people most important to you - your family, your spouse, your close friends. Do you spend as much time with them as you want? Do you do the things with them you want to be doing?

Indulge me for a moment, and treat your personal relationships like a business problem. What's your goal? What does success look like? Envision what that relationship would ideally look like moving forward. Now what's your strategy to get there?

5. Innovate Your Future

OK, I cheated. This one's really a combination of the first four above, but is perhaps the most important. You can keep doing what you're doing today - follow the same career, keep the same friends, the same occasional convenient hobbies - and maybe that makes you happy.

But chances are, if you took a minute to think and innovate, you'd envision a world much different than the one you live now.

So what are you going to do about it?

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