Monday, October 26, 2015

3 Foundational Skills That All Innovators Possess - Fluency, Flexibility & Uniqueness

It seems evident that an innovative mindset is helpful in today’s business climate. What’s less evident is how each of us can hone our natural innovative skills to get unstuck, think on our feet, solve complex problems, and navigate around our habitual thinking patterns? Let’s start with a look at two related words- creativity and innovation.

          Are Creativity & Innovation The Same?

A workable dichotomy on the concepts comes from Theodore Levitt who says “creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”  This perspective highlights the importance of transforming creativity into real world applications. Ideas are great but insight without action makes no difference. Take a look at the TV show “Shark Tank” to see how creativity is interesting yet,  without application, nothing changes. I look at creativity as a source of raw material and innovation as the blueprint for how to use the material. The formula looks like this: Creative thinking + Real World Application = Innovation

          Developing an Innovation mindset
Edward de Bono reminds us that "creative thinking is not a talent. It is a skill that can be learned.“  That’s good news because it means  all of us can enhance our creative and innovative ability through practice. As with most skills, practice is what allows us to access the skill when we need it.  When asked where his inspiration comes from, artist Chuck Close responded with, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”
          Innovation Skill Development
Practicing these 3 skills will hone your creative and innovative abilities:
1.      Fluency is the skill of generating as many ideas as possible. Try this: In 1 minute, write down as many things as you can which can be described as “sharp.” When the minute is up, look at the list and ask yourself, “What else? What more?” Add any new words that come to mind. Carry your list with you and add to it whenever a new “sharp” word comes to mind. See what you have after 3 or 4 days. Practice with different words on a regular basis.

2.      Flexibility is the skill of seeing things from many perspectives. Try this: Time yourself for 1 minute and write down as many uses for an umbrella that you can conceive of. When done, ask yourself, “What other ways can I perceive this object?” Look at attributes like size, function, sound, color, material, etc. Add any new words that come to mind. Carry your list with you and add to it whenever a new use for “umbrella” word comes to mind. See what you have after 3 or 4 days. Practice with different nouns on a regular basis.

3.      Uniqueness is the skill of looking at something and seeing a new use for it or a new way of presenting it. “Uber” and “Dollar Shave Club” are examples. Try this exercise: Make a list of 25 professional categories from the Yellow Pages (Remember the Yellow Pages?) Choose 2 categories at random and combine them into a new profession.  Then, within 2 minutes, come up with as many names for the business and tag lines for the new business. Examples: Pet Shop and Bar becomes “Pooch & Hooch: 1 Stop for Hair of the Dog AND Hair on the Dog “; Lawyer and Landscaper:"Sue or Sow: Trim Your Lawn and Wallet at the Same Time.” Practice often with new combinations.

          Trust the Process; Trust Yourself
Your creativity skill is like a vein of gold within an unmined mountain. The more you exercise your creativity and innovation muscles the quicker you will get to that gold.


Izzy Gesell, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) (Izzy's website) is an organizational alchemist who helps individuals and organizations transform their thinking from commonplace to extraordinary. Through his keynotes, trainings, coaching and facilitated sessions, Izzy offers imaginative, intuitive and immediately useful insights and programs. He is skilled at delivering meaningful material in a way that makes participants enjoy their time with him.   Izzy was one of the first to use Improv Theater concepts as tools for personal and organizational learning. He is the author of Playing Along: Group Learning Activities Borrowed From Improvisation Theater, a co-author of Cancer & the Healing Power of Play, a co-author of Humor Me: America’s Funniest Humorists on the Power of Laughter, and a contributor of a chapter on Improvisation as a facilitation tool in the IAF Group Facilitators Handbook. "His video course  on Applied Improv for Leadership" for Lynda.com was their first  course shot before a live audience. A second Lynda.com course, "Humor in the Workplace" was recently released.

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