Are innovators born or made? According to the research and practice of Michigan faculty, the answer is “made.” Innovation and creativity are skills you can hone over time. Now more than ever, U-M alumni can learn to be innovative in their professions. The College of Engineering’s MConnex offers opportunities to increase this capacity for innovation. On April 28 and 29, it is offering a Certified Professional Innovator Certificate with renowned innovator and U-M faculty member Jeff DeGraff. To start your path toward innovation now, put these these five tips into practice:
- Brainstorm unconventional uses for conventional things. Thinking outside of the box requires thinking outside of the norm. The objective of an initial brainstorm is quantity, not quality. Think of as many things as you can, not how good those ideas are.
- Fail forward. Failing and innovation go hand-in-hand. When you try new things, inevitably they will not always succeed. Embrace failure, and learn from it.
- Bring together teams with different strengths. Business research suggests more diverse teams solve problems more quickly and creatively. When building a team, aim for recruiting difference.
- Be inspired. Researchers who study physical work spaces have found less organized, more cluttered workspaces result in more creativity. Order does not mean you are doomed to perpetuate the status quo, but inspiration does require aesthetics. Get outside, add color to your work space, stop filing papers, do whatever you need to inspire you.
- Assess along the way. Creativity and innovation benefit from evaluation. Whether doing something completely new or infusing creativity into an existing project, program, product, or service, evaluating the effect of your innovation is crucial in determining its success or the need for additional innovation.