As 2019 draws to a close, I wanted to share my learnings from a busy year. My year was filled with new growth opportunities and new approaches to business and innovation. Please share your list of accomplishments, observations, and insights from 2019, too.
View the lessons (less than one minute) and then read on!
Here are my innovation leadership lessons from 2019 (in no particular order).
#1 – Learning is Essential
Lifelong learning is essential for success as an innovation professional. Technology changes quickly and we need to respond rapidly to emerging customer needs. Continuous learning about new technologies, new markets, and new business approaches is the only way to win at innovation.
#2 – Failure is Learning
In general, people like to win and be successful. Yet, in failure we can learn what doesn’t work. In 2019, I tried a few new approaches to business and innovation. Some worked and some didn’t. When my ideas or concepts failed, I have spent time reflecting why they didn’t work. The reasoning behind the failure (wrong feature, bad timing, etc.) gives me insight to future opportunities.
#3 – Live in the Moment
Living in the present is a corollary to lesson #2. It’s important to reflect and learn from failure, but there’s no point in dwelling in the past (or crying over spilled milk, as they say). Once we’ve reflected on the reason for failure, it’s time to move on and apply the learnings to our work today. You can’t change the past, but you can change today.
#4 – Be Open to New Perspectives
As innovation leaders, we must be open to new ideas – all the time. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, doing the same things every day and just providing incremental improvements in products. Yet, when we are open to new perspectives and diverse viewpoints, our creativity soars!
#5 – Try New Things
Beyond just observing different viewpoints, we need to try out new things to be successful innovation leaders. In 2019, I added Everything DiSC® leadership and Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™ training to our offerings at Global NP Solutions (through the JHC Authorized Partner Network). Over the years, I’ve observed that companies are good at implementing new product development (NPD) processes, but not so good at the necessary culture changes. I’m trying “new things” to help individuals and firms become more successful in their own innovation ecosystems.
#6 – Accept What You Cannot Change
A lot of people in innovation and product development are like me, I think. We have great ideas and can see how others could benefit by adopting a different system or by executing projects differently. Yet, not every person or organization is ready to change. Passion is fantastic but we must be patient to bring other along on the journey of change.
#7 – Meet New People
Innovation leaders rely on market research to understand customer needs. The best way to gather customer insights is to meet them. Meeting new people and developing relationships with a variety of individuals gives us new perspectives – and is fun!
#8 – Push Yourself Physically
Physical activity and exercise are directly linked to emotional well-being. Innovation leaders must be balanced physically, emotionally, and spiritually to be effective guides for their teams. I did my first triathlon in 2019. The training and preparation for it increased my energy levels across all three spectra.
#9 – Read a Book
Reading opens doors to new ideas, new concepts, and new worlds. I have been a voracious reader since I was a small child. I read while I’m on the elliptical trainer at the gym (see #8). It’s important for innovation leaders to read non-fiction and fiction within and outside of their industry and ordinary interests. Reading increases creativity by allowing us to experience someone else’s viewpoints and perspectives.
#10- Write a Book
Reading gives you the skills for writing. And while you might not want to write a book, consider writing an article for your company’s newsletter or writing a research report on your product development efforts. Writing clarifies our thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Check out my new book, The Innovation ANSWER Book, available from Amazon here.
#11 – Clean Out the Clutter
Related to #10, when I was gathering materials and research for my book, I accumulated stacks of papers, journals, books, and printed copies of blogs and articles. I downloaded eBooks, images, and tons of data and information. Clearing out the physical (and electronic) debris left in the wake of writing The Innovation ANSWER Book is giving me space to pursue new projects. When we clear the clutter, we create new opportunities and are more open to new ideas and activities.
#12 – Test Your Assumptions
Testing assumptions is related to many of the other innovation leadership lessons. Each of us has built-in biases and we make assumptions about people and situations just to manage the huge amount of data to which we’re exposed daily. Yet, not all our assumptions are still valid or will work under different conditions. When you find yourself irritated or frustrated by something, take a step back and check if your assumptions are guiding your emotions instead of facts and ideas.
#13- Get Support
Innovation leaders can’t go it alone. Innovation is a unique undertaking in every firm and is often a function isolated from day-to-day operations. Yet, without successful and ongoing innovation, companies will cease to thrive. Innovation leaders need to have a support network with other people focused on R&D, product development, and brand management. The Innovation Master Mind is the perfect place to connect with and share challenges with like-minded innovation leaders. A master mind group is a safe place to brainstorm and test your assumptions (see innovation leadership lesson #11).
#14 – Attend Professional Events
Networking is a great opportunity to meet new people (innovation leadership lesson #7) and to be exposed to diverse ideas. Successful innovation leaders attend professional trade events within their field of expertise and at the fringes of their marketplaces. Participating in a variety of trade and professional associations expands your network of connections and gives you the chance to speak directly with customers.
#15 – Take a Class
Innovation leaders are lifelong learners (innovation leadership lesson #1). Every year you should commit to taking a new class and to actively engage in training to enhance your professional skills. Take courses within your technical specialty and for your hobbies. In 2019, I took a scrapbooking class and a class on personal branding (by Roberta Guise). My friend Brian O’Neill is offering exciting classes in 2020. And, of course, classes on Design Thinking, innovation best practices, disruptive innovation, and project management will help you better frame product and service development for your organization. Check out all of our courses at www.Simple-PDH.com.
#16 – Enjoy Your Hobbies
I’ve often mentioned that my hobby of scrapbooking involves handmade greeting cards and photo scrapbooks to capture vacation memories. By engaging in a creative hobby, I am more creative in my business life. Sometimes we get so busy we become one-dimensional people. Innovation leaders find creativity in all aspects of their personal and professional lives, and especially within hobbies.
#17 – Travel Someplace New
Engaging with people of different cultures gives us new perspectives, especially driving insights for our customers. Traveling to a new place or even traveling on a new route to an old place increases creativity and lets you see alternate viewpoints. I went to Scotland for the first time on vacation in 2019 and discovered that I really liked the national meal of haggis, neeps, and tatties!
#18 – Rest and Disconnect
We are all so busy in today’s world. Carrying our phone, computer, and camera in our pockets has taught us to be “on call” 24/7. Yet, it is real, live people where we build connections and insights. Practice an occasional electronic “sabbath” and disconnect from email, texting, and Facebook. Most things can wait 24 hours and you’ll likely enjoy a face-to-face conversation with friends and family more than texting. Dinner is more enjoyable with actual dialogue than distractions with phones. And if people aren’t your thing, try out innovation leadership lesson #9 and read a book – a real one with paper pages that you turn!
#19 – Plan for Next Year
The end of the year is a great time to review our innovation accomplishments and leadership growth. It’s also a great time to express continued gratitude to our teams for their hard work as well. After taking stock of goals met and products launched, it’s time to plan for the next year. Join me for 20 Days of Innovation in 2020. It’s free – register here.
My genuine hope is that 2019 presented to you all the beauty, mystery, and growth that you expected. I learned a lot this past year and I have high expectations for next year. Please comment, tweet (@globalnpd), or text me to tell about your innovation leadership lessons of 2019. Blessings and best wishes for 2020!
I am inspired by writing, teaching, and coaching. I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. It brings me joy to help you build innovation leaders. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal is an experienced innovation professional with a passion for lifelong learning with a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MBA in Computer and Information Decision Making. My credentials include PE (State of Louisiana), NPDP, PMP®, and CPEM, and I am a DiSC® certified facilitator. Contact me at email@example.com or area code 281 + phone 280-8717 for more information on coaching for entrepreneurs and innovators.
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