5 Observations on Being Innovative (at an individual level)

After reading my previous blog post (5 Observations on being Innovative), a reader inquired if I had any thoughts on how an individual innovates. Here is my response.

Since organizations are composed of individuals, the observations in my previous blog post can also be applied at an individual level. Basically, similar to organizations, individuals can also come up with ideas from everyone and everything around them. These ideas can be disruptive or incremental or both. Disruptive ideas can create new industries and/or significantly change existing industries (e.g., iTunes) while incremental ideas can improve upon existing products (e.g., iPhone 4, blackberry etc.) or services (e.g., banking, consulting etc.). Generally speaking, ideas for products, services and even management frameworks can come from various sources such as:

  1. Talking to and sharing ideas with your direct circle of influence (e.g., family, friends etc.).
  2. Talking to and improving upon your ideas through your extended circle of influence (e.g., co-workers, alumni associations, professional associations etc.).
  3. Having experience in the areas that you are interested in by:
    • Reading (e.g., books, articles, newspapers, blogs). Sometimes even walking through a library or a bookstore and reading various titles can generate ideas.
    • Talking to people who have experience in that area.
  4. Exploring seemingly unrelated areas to generate ideas by:
    • Reading a diverse genre of books.
    • Talking to and interacting with a diverse group of people.
    • Experiencing different cultures.
    • Observing the plant kingdom.
    • Observing the animal kingdom.
  5. Stitching, applicability and combination of the above.
Idea Generation Map for Individuals
Idea Generation Map for Individuals

On a personal note, some years ago, I found it very inefficient that I could use only one hand to write or use the computer mouse. This meant that every time I wanted to write something on a physical notebook I had to stop using the computer mouse and then write. So, I trained my other hand to use the mouse and have seen significant personal productivity gains. This idea came to me one day as I remembered an instance where a substitute teacher used both of his hands to write on the blackboard.


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