Innovation is a key to success in business. More than that, to innovate is to break the bonds of who you've always been and to open a door to real change. Every step you take can be toward reinvention, whether of how design a product, run a business process, or address important aspects of your life.

Equally important, innovation isn't some magical facility only available to a few who are born lucky. Anyone can improve how innovative they are -- which is another way of saying how well they observe and solve problems.

Here are 9 TED talks that touch on innovation and offer lessons on how to become more innovative.

Maybe you should innovate the context

One of the classic problems in innovation is facing a thorny problem. There may be various ways to find solutions, but one of the best approaches to at least consider is changing the context so the problem is different. For many years athletes tried to find ways to become stronger and faster. But, as reporter David Epstein explains, often the records that have fallen over the years owed as much if not more to new clothing, running surfaces, or even techniques that changed the context in which they competed.

Are you ignoring invisible innovation?

We can get so focused on improvement that we lose track of what problems we're solving and where we're being innovative. A business owner could completely overlook an advance that some part of his or her team created because it wasn't flashy, even if it offered a breakthrough. People can get so intent on meeting certain arbitrary demands and criteria that they discount what is their particular true genius. Marketing professor Nirmalya Kumar describes how major areas of innovation in India effectively went hidden.

Find an analogy

Artist Neil Harbisson was born color blind. And yet, he works with color because electronics translate color into different sounds for him. What problems are you trying to solve that might be different if you found different ways to consider and describe them?

When people walk one way, turn around and head the other

One of the reasons many people fail to be innovative is because -- aptly ironic -- they do things the way they've always been done. That isn't only a personal issue, but a societal one as well. There's a big human herd that keeps moving in prescribed directions. Give yourself and others the freedom to try something different, no matter how crazy sounding (and some of the examples that Mike Rowe, host of the Dirty Jobs show, provides some lulus, at least one of which is pretty disgusting), and you might be surprised how well things can go.

Know why you innovate

Look at two different companies, one known for innovation and the other not so much. People gravitate toward the first. The reason why, according to leadership expert Simon Sinek, is because the people in charge know the answer to one critical question.

Learn where good ideas come from

Do you know where the best ideas come about? If you did, you and your organization might act differently to help improve innovation. The answer is networks of people who help stimulation each other, says writer Steven Johns.

Let people be makers

Dale Dougherty, who publishes MAKE magazine, points out that all of us have an inclination to be inventive. Why fight nature? Let them.

Don't make science and design strangers

Many companies may involve both designers and engineers on product and process design. And yet, real innovation can be a combination of both. Mathieu Lehanneur gives examples from his own work to show the importance of including both.

Let the everyday fuel innovation

Inspiration is great, and it's all around us, both as a source of finding solutions to problems and for the problems that need solving. Inventor and MacArthur fellow Saul Griffith describes some of the ways he and others are taking on some basic problems.

Published on: Jan 11, 2016
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