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A powerful innovation breeding habit you can do right now

“We are tuned to think linearly – but the fact is, these are exponential times”.

And to think exponentially, we need to break out of our comfort zone and seek out new knowledge.

I’ve spent time in companies where they talk about innovation. Supposedly they fight for it. Funny thing is, I don’t notice any “innovation breeding habits” in display. And, if you ask them about those habits, the first one that comes up is brainstorming.

Sorry, but innovation work is more than just brainstorming around what you know. It’s about constant learning. And not so much as learning about the same topic, but going out an learning from people who are not in the same line of work as you. Learning about their domain, how they solve problems, what their challenges are, etc.

This is where seeds for innovative ideas born.

Last week my business partner and I had the opportunity to get a 2 hour tour of Disney Animation Studios. This was an EPIC day for both of us as we are both Disney Fanatics.

One thing I learned was how they used to animate back in the day before CGI existed. Here’s is a photo of the machine, they used to put one layer of animation over another to give continuity to the frames.

Disney cel animation

Interesting isn’t it? This machine was an innovation at the end of the 1940′s! It gives you and idea as to how far we’ve come!

I also learned about the creative process behind creating a character from scratch (more on this on another post). Anyway, this is one of a handful of things I learned on my short two hour tour.

The point is that in two hours, I learned things I can use elsewhere. Like my own company!

If your company isn’t scheduling time to learn from others (beyond your own client’s if you are B2B), here are a few things you can do:

  1. Make a list of companies from whom you want to learn from (outside your domain). You probably already have a few companies you admire. Start there. If they are not within your region, don’t worry. There is always someone you can learn a lot from who is close by. If all else fails, pick a company that is being mentioned on your local newspaper.
  2. Make a list of people you know who might work at those companies. This is easy to do with LinkedIn as it can show you who your friend is connected to, that might open a door for you.
  3. Search Twitter profiles with the keywords for those companies. There could be people on Twitter who work at those companies. Engage them and find a way to make a visit.
  4. At least once per month schedule time to visit companies that have absolutely nothing to do with your domain. Remember I told you about DJO Global a month ago? I scheduled a visit.

When we talk about creating “innovation breeding habits”, this is where it starts. To engage in innovation breeding habits is to get uncomfortable. That means getting off your butt and going out into another world that is unlike your own. There is a reason why traveling and living abroad makes you more creative, and visiting companies that are outside your known domain is almost like traveling abroad.

Go to the edge, the really important stuff happens outside your comfort zone.

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