What can you learn from tech companies and musicians? Solid business practices, according to Josh Linkner, a five-time tech entrepreneur, venture capitalist and innovation expert.
“One of the best sources of inspiration is looking outside of one’s field,” Linkner says. “We can get caught up in an echo chamber of our own business.”
In his keynote presentation “How Innovation Fuels Results,” which will kick off the NALP Innovation & Technology Forum on Nov. 18, Linkner will focus on how people can use creativity to meet the changing circumstances, whether it be shifting customer expectations or labor shortages.
“We’re living in a world of uncertainty and a world of change, so the question is how do we adapt and thrive to a changing environment,” Linkner says. “I’m going to give people a perspective on human creativity along with some very practical tools that they can use to better drive outcomes.”
Linkner says this keynote will get people energized and provide attendees with tangible, actionable tools that can make a real difference in their business.
“I’m going to share some really fun and inspiring real-world stories, and it’s going to give people a big boost of energy,” he says. “It’s like aeration for the mind.”
Finding Fresh Ideas
Linkner says a core premise of innovation is to look to see where else in the world someone is solving similar problems. One example would to be looking at how a cruise line handles the loading and unloading of passengers to find a small idea that can be translated to how you handle peak activity during spring clean-ups.
“It really is a way of opening your mind and opening up the possibilities,” he says.
Linkner says innovation is often misunderstood.
“People think innovation only counts if it’s a million-dollar idea,” Linkner says. “Or it only counts if you’re wearing a lab coat or maybe a hoodie. But innovation is something that is accessible to us all. The research is crystal clear that as human beings we all have enormous reservoirs of creative capacity. And innovation doesn’t have to change the world to count.”
An everyday innovation could be anything from how you answer the phone to how you send an invoice to a customer. When viewed this way, innovation also becomes accessible to everyone.
Unlocking Creative Capacity
To encourage everyone on your team to unlock their creativity, you must first prioritize it and be committed to it. Linkner says you also have to have a system.
“It’s a primary job of leadership to arm everyone for battle, to make sure that everyone becomes an innovator,” he says. “You hire people for their judgment, but you often don’t let them use it. Let their creativity shine.”
Linkner says creativity is a resource that is often neglected and that every person has this capability.
“If you can tap into this resource that is free and renewable, it could make a real difference,” he says. “With that creativity, you can have better efficiency, more throughput, more revenue, more growth, less competitive threats, on and on. Any major problem that you’re facing can be, at least partly solved if not completely solved, by the creativity of your existing team.”
An Army of Everyday Innovators
The first step to arming your employees is to make innovation a habit. Innovation should not be something that happens once every decade, but daily.
The second step is to remove fear. Linkner says that fear, not lack of natural talent is the biggest blocker of innovation. Make sure your staff knows you are open-minded and all ideas are celebrated, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Scientific Method for Innovation
“Creativity works exactly like the scientific method,” he says. “You have a hypothesis. You come up with a number of ideas you know will not prove out. Test a bunch of them, discard the bad ones and double down on the good ones. Taking this systematic approach ultimately leads to higher creative output and less problems.”
When implementing the ideas for possible innovations, Linkner says there’s no magic number of how many days something should be tested. What is important is to have a testing phase.
Taking the risk out of ideas is to break them down into small experiments. Set up the testing parameters of how much you’re going to spend, how long you’re going to try it and what are the metrics that determine if it moves on to the next stage. The next stage is expanding the size of the experiment. By the time it is implemented company-wide, you’ve already had a chance to refine and tweak this idea.
“It’s more about establishing an experimental framework for every new idea so you can test them cheap, quick and easy,” Linkner says. “You can discard the bad ones and double down on the good ones.”
Don’t miss Linkner’s keynote presentation and other speakers during the Innovation & Tech Forum on Nov. 18. Register now!