Innovation often looks like an uncontrollable force that strikes only the lucky entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. However, research has proven that creative ideas are all around us, in all types of organizations. In fact, of the top 30 innovations that have changed the world the most in the last 30 years — ideas like open source software, e-commerce, biofuels, and email — more than 70% have come from employees working in established organizations. What do these in-house innovators have in common, and what sets them apart from inevitably unsuccessful creators? It starts with their ability to recognize and act on opportunities.
In a fascinating study, psychologist Richard Wiseman studied two groups of people: Those who considered themselves lucky and those who considered themselves unlucky. He asked each group to look through a newspaper and count how many pictures were inside. On average, the “unlucky” people took two minutes to respond. The “lucky” people usually complete the task in seconds. What is the difference?
On page 2 of the newspaper it read: “Stop counting — There are 43 pictures in this newspaper.” The half-page message was written in large format, so it should have been hard to miss. However, people who consider themselves unlucky tend to overlook it.
Wiseman’s research concludes that lucky people practice a number of habits that help create their own luck: They are skilled at recognizing lucky opportunities. They make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition. They create self-fulfilling prophecies by developing positive expectations, and they adopt a resilient attitude to turn bad luck into good. Lucky people enter a situation with the intention of seeking luck — so they tend to seek it. Unlucky people often miss an opportunity even when it is staring them in the face. They rushed through fliers, hunting for photographs, never expecting that, perhaps, some kind of fortune might come their way.
Do you notice all the unexpected opportunities popping up throughout the day? What would your career, business or life look like if you did?
Whether you consider yourself lucky or not depends on the habits you practice and the beliefs you set for yourself. Even when we can spot creative opportunities, most of us are faced with mental blocks that keep us from acting on them. So, how can you change your mind to be one of the lucky ones? The following 5-step process is designed to help you break through the blocks of creativity and pursue innovative ideas.
Step 1: Diagnose your beliefs
The first step on the path to innovation is intention. When the intention to innovate is strong, you are more likely to see and seize the opportunity. Therefore, it is important to identify and eliminate any factors that hinder your ability to see your opportunity and determine what is preventing you from taking action. Research shows that there are three types of beliefs that prevent people from discovering and acting on opportunities: behavioral beliefs (“this won’t work”), control beliefs (“I can’t”) ) and normative beliefs (“everyone won” t approve”).
Visualize yourself in a movie. In this fantasy film, you have a chance to innovate, but in the end, you decide to pass. To diagnose your beliefs, choose which of the following statements (excerpts from interviews with real insider innovators) that sounds closest to your internal dialogue?
It’s too hard It’s not certain it will work I can’t be sure…
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