I think there is a tendency in most people to avoid risk and repeat what has been done before them. We look to history to steer us away from common mistakes and help us make decisions that will positively benefit the efforts we make today. By analyzing the past, we try to secure a very predictable and safe future. Rinse. Repeat. Success. I believe there is a great amount of wisdom in this approach to business, but it can only be part of our overall vision as leaders. Regardless of what field you find yourself in, you must realize that there is a frontier to explore, and failure to investigate this frontier could be crippling to the future of your organization. For those out there willing to face the new frontiers, I dare to call you innovators. You have left the comfort of what has been done and are willing to risk what you have to embark into the unknown. The unknown is scary, thrilling, devastating, and wonderful. If you’ve ever staked your livelihood or the livelihood of those you care about in the unknown, then you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, I invite you to join us. I’ll offer you two ways to start thinking about innovating:
If you want to be an innovator, you have to make time to dream about the future of your industry. Block off at least an hour a week and spend it in space where you won’t be bothered. Start writing down what you want to see the future look like. This is not a time to guess the way the market will go or what new technology will influence your field. This is a time for you to tell the world what will happen. This is originality from you not your best prognostication. What are you doing differently or new that will influence or change the game? Personally, I own an entertainment company comprised mostly of escape rooms, and these are some of the questions I ask myself on a weekly basis: What aren’t people doing in my industry that I think would be awesome? If I had unlimited funding, what would I build and why? If I could evolve escape rooms into the next big form of entertainment, what would that look like? Go big on your dreaming. Leave the realistic and practical behind and write down the big dreams you imagine seeing one day. These dreams will help you identify key goals as you move to more practical applications of implementation. It can also be the most freeing and fun part of your week.
Another way to conceptualize and think about innovation is through synthesizing. Synthesis is all about bringing together existing pieces to create something new. A big trap that a lot of people fall into is thinking that innovation means originality. In other words, if you didn’t come up with something that people haven’t seen before, then it’s not innovation. However, I personally believe that some of the greatest innovators out there are the ones who see existing parts that will fit together like nobody else does and are the first to put them together. I use synthesis all the time when I am creating a new escape room. I use a little of my clueing originality, mix it with some fun technology, and add an immersive environment to create an unforgettable experience for my players. I didn’t invent the technology. I don’t have the skills to build out the environment and a lot of the clues I come up with are versions of clues that have been around for years. BUT. I don’t know many people who can or are willing to take the time to package all these pieces together in one unique experience. I challenge you to look around your field and your workplace and put the pieces together that others have left around.