Innovation is invention converted into value.  That value could be financial, social, or cultural value.  If you want to create an innovation culture in your organization, you have to make the time and space for creativity, because creativity is the engine for innovation.

An Innovation IQ consists of 3 competencies: inventive thinking,  collaboration, and customer-centric products and services.  Each competency leads to real business results.

  1. Inventive thinking leads to new business models that can identify alternative strategic partners and revenue streams.  
  2. Collaborative ways of working end up reducing silos, improving efficiencies, and ultimately lowering operating costs.   
  3. Customer-centric products & services lead to higher ROI and brand loyalty.  

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself and pose to your team to test your Innovation IQ.

1. Do you have a hobby outside of your daily job?

If you practice a craft or hobby diligently outside of your paid work, then you are regularly putting yourself into a beginners' mindset.  This is crucial because it primes you to get good at embracing being clumsy, learning from mistakes, and asking the naive questions.  Inevitably, the beginners' mindset that hobbies cultivate transfers into your work environment.  You will get better at questioning the status quo, one of the first steps towards innovating.   

2. Do you play regularly?

I mean really play, have fun, and do activities that bring you joy.  Ingrid Fetell Lee gives an amazing TED talk about joy and why we should incorporate it into our lives.  Joy is distinct from happiness.  While happiness is something we expect to sustain long term, joy is episodic and is all about your perspective.  A corollary to being more playful is developing a sense of humor. A sense of humor signals your capacity for abstract thinking- instead of only focusing on what is literally in front of you. Note that having a sense of humor will also be developed from question No. 1 above--having a hobby.

3. Do you deliberately do things outside of your comfort zone?

At least twice a year, visit a place outside of your comfort zone or go to a conference that is totally outside of your sector, where you will be sure to learn something new.  This helps you to practice lateral thinking.  You can also practice getting outside of your comfort zone on a daily basis.  For example, if you do not consider yourself an artistically visual type, begin practicing doodling.  Set the timer for 5 minutes, and doodle away.  It is one of the best ways to make the mind more limber.

4. Do you experiment with technology? 

Sometimes we forget that at the end of the day, technology is a tool. It is there to help amplify what is uniquely human about us and free us up to do more creative work.  In addition to the usual suspects of workshare platforms like Slack, Basecamp, and Zoom, also try experimenting with augmented reality tools, and visualization tools like Canva, Mural or Ziteboard.

5. Do you incentivize collaboration?

Even superheroes don't go it alone, so why should you? It's one thing to say you value collaboration, but until you incentivize it by linking collaboration to compensation or time, chances are your employees won't put collaboration into practice.  One of the best outcomes of collaboration is the necessary thought diversity that results. You quickly learn to invite in and lean on people from different departments and backgrounds. Remember: the more diverse the inputs, the more innovative the output.  

If you answered YES to at least 3 of these questions, you're doing a good job.  Make it your goal in 2019 to be able to tick off YES to all 5 questions and share your techniques with others.