Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time examining innovation in my own organization and exploring ways to help my team better imagine, create, and then test and deliver new, cutting-edge products and services. When trying to come up with ways to promote innovation, I couldn’t help but look at the culture within our organization. That led me to examine the company’s leadership. I had to ask: Are those in charge practicing innovation, too? And I don’t just mean to ask are they coming up with new ideas at work. I mean, are they considering what it looks like to be innovative in their own lives? Have they put resources and energy into being innovative personally? That led me to ask the same of myself…

What motivates personal innovation?
I choose to define personal innovation as something fresh that creates value for me and people around me. As I looked inward to identify methods for bringing about innovation in my personal life, I found three paths that have led me to make fresh, value-added changes.

In our culture, we are typically moved to innovate through friendships and relationships. These relationships prompt us to think about who we are. These can be incredibly simple changes we make to improve a relationship, or complex shifts over long periods of time. One way that I was able to personally innovate early on in my marriage was to start sorting my laundry. Before I was married, I never sorted the laundry. My wife is a strict laundry sorter, and to accommodate her and also to improve my marriage, I decided to start sorting. Not only are my whites brighter now, but my marriage is a little bit stronger for that change, and I learned something in the process. This is a simple example from daily life but still it shows how there are opportunities to innovate personally in almost everything we do!

Big Change or Trauma
When something big or traumatic happens in our lives, that is the time when personal innovation can really come into play. These big moments can be anything. Sometimes they are related to your career, such as being laid off from a job, feeling unhappy with a position, or making a career change. In those cases, the challenge is to look internally, and personally innovate to make the moment count. It’s often about looking on the inside to consider how to package something differently. This requires self-reflection and awareness.

While everything is running perfectly, we might stop and say, “I’m bored.” Perhaps something is broken or there’s a vacuum in your life. If we’re being self aware and proactive we might seek out therapy and take a closer look at how we’re living our lives.  A change—whether it’s simply a change in perspective, includes adding something new, or just means going to therapy—that’s the personal innovation I’m talking about here.

Most of us can stop and say the relationship, crisis, or emptiness is causing  us to make a change. Innovation is more than just the pause—just like in industry it’s about more than just the idea—because innovation happens. Once you have a reason to innovate and a good idea for how to start, you’ll need to make a change.

What are the circumstances in your life that are crying out for change?
Here are some questions that may help you zero in on the motivation, which will bring you closer to that personal innovation.

  1. Is there a skill you can learn that will bring you closer to someone, and strengthen that relationship?
  2. Is there an argument you keep having with a loved one or colleague which you can attempt to soften your view on?
  3. Can you identify a cultural divide in a relationship you have where experiencing that culture, or learning more about it, may help you to bridge the gap?
  4. Has something really huge happened recently that has caused you to shift your worldview? If so, are there any positive aspects of your new worldview that you can build on and turn into something meaningful in your life?
  5. Can you use a recent change to examine your own skill set and seek out new opportunities that capitalize on them?
  6. What’s making you bored? What can you change about your expectations to alleviate those feelings?
  7. If something in your life is missing, how can you go about getting it?

As you consider motivations that can help you focus on making a significant, innovative change in your life, be specific about your motivations because that will help lead you to your fresh, new perspective.

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