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Innovation has always been one of the big buzz words used to describe everything from distinguishers in companies, startups and entrepreneurs, to important identifiers in talent.  But what is innovation really and how do you uncover innovative thinking, whether you’re searching for it in a new hire or you’re finding it within yourself to drive your organization?

When you get down to defining innovation and innovative thinking as it pertains to the workplace, it’s about fostering new thinking and collaboration that produces new business opportunities.  Innovative thinking is seeing new opportunities in what already exists.

A person who thinks innovatively doesn’t necessarily rely on past experience or known facts, but is able to open themselves up to possibilities, define goals, and imagines multiple paths to get there–which means innovators see obstacles not as failure but simply examples to grow, learn, and adapt from.

When trying to identify these behaviors and traits during the interview process, it can be a bit daunting–every organization has different needs and identifying innovative traits alone, isn’t enough.  You have to also take into account the job seeker’s other qualities and ability to put their innovative thinking into motion and actionable ideas.  It’s one thing to think innovatively but to be innovative you have to be able to act.

Inc.com put out an article, recently, that poises some interesting interview questions in How to Identify Innovative New Hires.  What the article is important to identify near the end is to make sure your organization is ready for innovation.  Are you prepared to listen to new ideas and implement new strategies?

Almost every organization claims they are innovative or want innovation in their companies, but many are not ready to open themselves up to the change that can occur when you unleash new patterns of thinking.

It’s been proven that everyone has the ability within their brains to be innovative.  When searching inside of yourself to bring innovation to a company or startup or to showcase your skills in an interview, it’s not just about how you answer questions but changing the way you approach problems and the patterns in which you cycle through your thinking.

Anytime we try to change the way we think, it can take time and be intimidating.  If you want to be innovative, think bigger.  By bigger, I mean, think broader, expand your horizons, take limitations out of the equation.

When you approach a problem, don’t look at it as a problem, reframe questions and problems in a positive way that allow for solutions and ideas rather than focusing on the negative.  Change your original assumptions–or throw them out the window to allow for multiple ways of seeing the challenges.

If you find yourself stuck, try changing the vision or redefining what the goal is or identifying the goal from the challenge you are posed with.

Once you can start modifying the way you think about problems and solutions, another practice to help your new thinking is to learn to quickly implement rapid successions of solutions, trying them out, learning from each new attempt, adjusting, and gaining new insights to inform your thinking.

By trying many solutions quickly (and quickly is contextual–quick could mean minutes or months depending on what you are trying to achieve) you are not as attached to anyone solution and can separate your emotions, letting go of things that don’t work, and continuing to focus on the goal of reaching a resolution that transforms old patterns and ways of doing things, you have transformed yourself and your productivity.

While we don’t need to innovate all of the time, being innovative is what allows for growth and change to stay competitive in a changing marketplace.  Whether you’re looking for new talent, looking within yourself, or looking at your current organization to help re-define your organization for the future, identifying innovative thinking and putting into practice will be critical.

What ways do you open your organizations up to be innovative and what ways do you identify innovative thinking in your employees?

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