How to develop an Innovative Mindset?

While the term ‘innovation’ long gathered negative associations, the idea of innovation became associated with science, the invention of new machines and products with the Industrial Revolution. In 1939, the influential economist Joseph Schumpeter, arguably the originator of the concepts that led to what we now call “entrepreneurship,” introduced an important distinction. Invention, he argued, was the creation of something new (e.g., a new product), while innovation related to the adoption of that new thing (e.g., the bringing of a new product to market). From the 1950s, the frequency of the term “invention” in texts began steadily declining as the term “innovation” rose, and by the 1980s, “innovation” took the lead, led to the emergence of many related concepts. Today, many talk of ‘innovative thinking’, but albeit a buzz word, few know what it actually consists in and how to adopt it. In this article, we provide a short introduction to innovative thinking and how to adopt an innovative mindset.

Although there exist a large variety of definition of innovation, innovative thinking can be defined as the multi-stage process whereby organizations transform ideas into new/improved products, service or processes, in order to advance, compete and differentiate themselves successfully in their marketplace. We see that there is both the ‘idea element’, the process of turning this idea into something (e.g., a product, a service) and the outcome itself: what has been created out of the idea. Specifically, innovation involves some combination of problem/opportunity identification, the introduction, adoption or modification of new ideas germane to organizational needs, the promotion of these ideas, and the practical implementation of these ideas. This approach is key because most problems might require approaches that have never been created or tried before and because as a business it is essential to differentiate itself in the market to compete with rival firms and companies. Several indices attempt to measure innovation and rank entities based on these measures. These include the Bloomberg Innovation Index, Innovation 360 – from the World Bank, INSEAD Innovation Efficacy Index, or the OECD Oslo Manual, focused on countries of North America, Europe, and other rich economies.

A number of approaches to innovative thinking have been developed in order to concretely use innovative thinking in practice. The three steps or CIA approach synthesizes the three steps most of them comprises. It speaks directly to the basic three stages of the process of innovation and can be seen as a simplified version of other more sophisticated approaches.  

The first step is the ‘challenge’. It represents an initial challenge or problem someone needs ideas in order to tackle or solve. It is important to clarify and precisely define the problem one is trying to solve or the opportunity on which one is capitalizing. The wording of the challenge matters. Following this question or challenge need, the second step represents the generation of ideas and solutions. This is a sort of giant brainstorming, at the end of which ideas and solution can be categorized, combined, and judged. Lastly, the third step represents taking action: moving through analysing the ideas and ultimately selecting and launching one of best fit to address the initial problem or challenge. While the last step may seem obvious, it is key in many traditional working environments such as law firms, where risk aversion is often an obstacle to innovation.

They are crucial habits which foster an innovative mindset. One of them is to consume different kinds of content. It is key to diversify the kind of content as the information we absorb can be combined, remixed, and repurposed in several ways to provide solutions. If the content we consume is always from a single perspective and what’s more from one’s particular professional sector, it is unlikely to give rise to innovative ideas. It is also very important, in developing an innovative mindset, never to accept the status quo and to keep up with the trends. While in many situations it may be easier to simply sit back and accept things as they are, lawyers who develop innovative mindsets do just the opposite. By questioning not only how things are done, but also how others conduct themselves as well, positive change can often occur. Many ideas can come from trends that are influencing the market right now and the ones that are coming up in the future. Keeping up with the trends is not just about consuming all kinds of news related to our field. It is also necessary to develop a keen eye to distinguish what has the potential to get viral or not. Building a network for innovation is also an excellent way to developing innovative thinking. Interacting with our peers is a great way to exercise creativity and innovative skills. It is even better when these people are also innovation-oriented and contributes to coming up with ideas as a network. Seeking as much diversity as we can while creating this network is highly beneficial to everyone’s ideas.

In our incoming article, we will discuss the obstacles and drivers of innovative thinking, as well as see our law firms can be innovative.

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