The concept of innovation can be completely overwhelming. Images of Edison inventing the light bulb or Henry Ford revolutionizing manufacturing push the idea of innovation outside the reach of us mere mortals. If we define innovation as a gigantic, change-the-world, cure-cancer type breakthrough, the concept is relegated to a select few: billionaires, mad scientist inventors, CEO’s, and super-geniuses.
Yet the vast majority of human progress is crafted differently. In fact, it’s the little creative shifts – what I refer to as micro-innovations – that most often carry the day. These mini innovations can be subtle, but add up to significant results en masse. A fresh way of conducting your weekly sales meeting. Reimagining the physical layout of your shop floor. A modern twist to the format you use to conduct job interviews. A novel way to manage a customer complaint. A new item on the menu.
The folks at Proctor & Gamble were fighting hard to gain share of the $7 billion detergent marketing. Instead of inventing some revolutionary magic serum, they used a small packaging change to win big. Tide Pods were launched to allow customers to drop a small pod in the wash rather than pour from a messy bottle. This micro-innovation led to stunning success, over $500 million of revenue in the product’s first year.
While game-changing breakthroughs are glamorous, small acts of ‘everyday innovation’ are the stuff of greatness. Too often, we put the weight of the world on our shoulders and believe we only have two choices – a) world-shifting innovation, or b) do nothing. With that kind of pressure, it’s no wonder that most of us restrict our creative output. On the other hand, micro-innovations are accessible to us all. Each of us – regardless of role, tenure, age, or title – has the ability to develop creative solutions that lead to real progress. In this sense, innovation becomes a daily habit rather than a big, scary, overwhelming phenomenon. We all can be innovators, not just those in lab coats or with fancy degrees.
Take a look at your daily work, whatever it may be. While totally disrupting your entire industry may be daunting, ask yourself what little creative twists could make a small difference. Apply creative wonder to your product or service, production, culture, sales and marketing, recruiting, customer experience, and internal processes. While micro-innovations may not land you on the cover of a magazine, they can absolutely fuel your performance. Not to mention, they’re tremendously fun.
View your work through the lens of an artist, looking to add just a little splash of creativity to even the most mundane tasks. Remove the burden to develop gigantic a-ha moments of brilliance, and focus on a high output of micro-innovations. Each change or twist may be small, but your results over time will be anything but puny.