Keep Innovation Fit! A Training Plan.

Head with cog wheels moving in the brain symbolising creative thinking and being fit for innovation

At Anatellô, we sometimes think of being ready to innovate as being ‘innovation fit’. It's a metaphor that seems to work well. 

As is often the case with metaphor, it can reveal much about the attitudes, beliefs and values underlying a topic.

We know that physical fitness is good for our long term health and well being. Likewise innovation is generally good for the long term health and well being of the business.

A good innovation project that delivers business building results delivers an unassailable ‘high’ to the innovator. Just as a gym or other workout can make you feel great.

Innovation projects can quite easily be sidelined when something more urgent comes along. Just like sometimes that planned trip to the gym or the pool, can get knocked out when an invite to the bar/cinema/a party turns up.

In a tough economic climate some organizations find it hard to keep innovation front of mind. Teams may be quite lean and there can be many urgent operational matters to deal with.

Innovating new products can seem like a time consuming, long term and uncertain activity when you compare it with the immediacy of manufacturing or making sales.

But innovation is of course not just about new products. It’s about improvement in every aspect of the business.

If you’re not involved in major innovation activities at any stage how about ensuring that you give your innovation skills a work out on a regular basis? You’ll be able to draw on them to make some business improvements now, and you’ll also be ‘fit’ for the innovation marathons of the future – when bigger innovation budgets return.

With this in mind and in a light-hearted mood we’ve put together an outline ‘training plan’ to keep you innovation fit!

Creative Thinking Muscles.

In western civilizations ‘critical thinking’ dominates. You’ll see politicians from one side put forward an idea and those from the other side rip it apart. A creative thinking approach would see the one side build on the parts of the ideas they like. We’re not expecting this to happen anytime soon in politics!

Everyone has creative thinking capability and just like a muscle we can strengthen it by using it.

  • A key part of creative thinking is ‘connection making’.
    • Which business could you partner with to produce growth?
    • Think of a trend in the news today – how could this provide an opportunity for your organization?


  • We need openmindedness to give our own and other people’s ideas the space to be heard and considered.
    • Hear a crazy idea from a colleague that you’re about to reject or ridicule. How about pausing? What’s good about it?

Dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity.

  • In order to be innovative it has to be new. That means traveling into the unknown where there is no reliable data to plan from. Try to identify new sources of data that could help. Put a question into an online forum, test some concept ideas through Google Adwords and a mocked up landing page. Also, bring your intuition, sometimes called’ gut feel’ into your decision making. Afterwards, reflect on how it went compared to when you’re working with more reliable data.

Risk taking

  • Risk taking is something that entrepreneurs do naturally. They are reported to get huge thrills from it. In an organization, risk taking has to be carefully considered. But you can develop your personal risk taking skills every day. It all depends what feels risky to you. It might be speaking up more in meetings, putting yourself forward for a new project team, going climbing at the weekend. Do it!  It will help you to  build your risk taking capability.

Being in the Present.

Innovation can be thwarted by people hanging on to what has gone before, thinking about the way things were. What worked and what didn’t work. In order to innovate you need to move from the past into the present. From there you can change what happens in the future.

  • Notice what is going on around you. Take a walk in the city or in nature and notice things. Get fascinated by everything that is going on the world. … and that brings us back to connection making. Does looking around you, being interested and involved inspire any new thoughts about how to build your business?

So often being more creative and innovative is about giving yourself or others permission to be more creative. It’s also about breaking free of our dominant ‘critical thinking’ mode. Critical thinking has its place, but people who are ‘innovation fit ‘ are more flexible. They can flex easily between critical thinking and creative thinking.

© 2013 AnatellÔ Ltd . All rights reserved.


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