Great ideas often come from the most unlikely places. This is especially true of Arthur Fry, who stumbled upon his greatest invention at his school choir one Sunday in 1973.
Arthur sang in his church choir in the evenings and used sheets of paper to bookmark the hymns in his choir book. Every time he opened his book, the pieces of paper would move around or fall out altogether.
As he bent down to retrieve the makeshift bookmarks from the floor that Sunday, he suddenly thought of a seminar he had been to earlier that year. It was about a new adhesive that was strong enough to cling to objects but weak enough to allow a temporary bond.
Looking down at the loose sheets of paper in his hands, it was then that the light went on in Arthur's head. If he applied this new adhesive to one side of a piece of paper, he could create a bookmark that would temporarily stick to the pages of his book without damaging the pages on which it was placed.
It was this idea that would lead Fry to create his greatest invention seven years later. An innovative product that would sit on millions of desks around the world and capture the world's greatest ideas.
The post-it note.
Arthur's story reminds us that innovation can come from anywhere, and that innovation has less to do with the problems it solves and more to do with how we approach and view those problems. Loose pieces of paper are just loose pieces of paper until we imagine them as something different.
An innovative mindset is about coming up with creative ways to approach problems. Like Arthur Fry and the post-it note, it's about looking at things from a new perspective, combining new ideas, or improving existing ones.
As businesses, innovation is the lifeblood of success. An innovative approach helps us stand out from competitors, attract customers, and deliver a potentially world-changing product or service.
Here are ways you can foster an innovative mindset to grow your business.
Lead with curiosity
All innovation starts with one simple question– why.
Why do things have to be that way?
The why question is closely followed by another equally important question– what if?
'What if these pieces of paper could somehow stick to the book?' 'What if we had a way of accessing the world's knowledge at our fingertips?'
Every innovation we use and take for granted today was born out of this same process. A process of asking disruptive questions that lead to disruptive and transformative answers.
It's the same for any kind of innovation. Ask open-ended questions that focus on coming up with solutions and questions that lead to imagined futures.
We can't force ourselves to 'be innovative', but we can change our way of thinking and adopt a mindset that encourages creativity and innovation.
Whilst difficult times are hard to deal with, they are also an opportunity for change.
Countless innovations have emerged as a response to the coronavirus pandemic– distillers using their alcohol and breweries to combat shortages of hand sanitiser, the world's scientists uniting to develop vaccines.
As humans, we can choose to run from uncertainty, or we can choose to embrace it as an opportunity for change and improvement and respond to it with innovative and divergent thinking.
The innovation mindset comes as a direct response to problems, difficulties, and change. Life continuously throws up new challenges, and it's our job as innovators to overcome them. To think up creative solutions, to reimagine things, and to come up with a new and better image of the future.
As uncomfortable as they are, problems and uncertainties are opportunities for growth. Problems and uncertainties present us with the opportunity to change the world for the better.
So next time you have a setback in your business, rather than fixating on the problem, use it as an opportunity to imagine a better future. Focus on coming up with creative solutions and possibilities that will make things even better than they were before.
Keep an open mind
Radical ideas always sound a little crazy at first. That's because they imagine futures that are so far removed from the current reality. If you told a caveman that one day mankind would land on the moon, he would probably have a hard time believing you.
No idea is too crazy as a jumping-off point.
The human brain has invented ways of engineering driverless cars, creating life-saving medicines, and launching itself into space. All things that were totally unheard of in their time.
These great innovations all began as radical ideas and future possibilities. All because one person asked 'why?' and dared to imagine 'what if...?'.
By leading with the mindset that anything is possible, we focus less on hurdles, limitations, and obstacles and more on solutions, ideas, and possible realities. We open ourselves up to a way of thinking that is expansive, transformative, and radically disruptive. A mindset that leads to true innovation.