Mindset for Innovative Thinking

The Innovation Thinking Process

There are specific innovative thinking mindsets that come from the world of design thinking. These design thinking mindsets are attitudes to use as you innovate and you can apply them with a variety of frameworks or processes that you choose to use. The three sticky notes featured on the cover of the book, Innovation Step-by-Step: How to Generate & Develop Ideas for your Challenge, speak directly to the three basic innovative thinking stages of the process of innovation.

1. Challenge
2. Ideas
3. Action

The first sticky note, with the stick figure question mark character, represents an initial challenge or problem someone needs ideas in order to tackle or solve. Following this question or challenge need, the second sticky note with the lightbulb character represents the generation of  ideas and solutions, while the third sticky note with the rocket character represents taking action…moving through analyzing the ideas and ultimately selecting and launching one of best fit to address your initial problem or challenge.

But making progress on anything innovative requires the right mindset. Oftentimes, people have an interest in innovating, but either don’t know where to start or get stuck along the way. They ultimately need to cultivate the courage to take action – even when they get stuck.

While the process of innovation may give someone an outline to follow to get started, there are three common places people, even experienced innovators, might become trapped because of a fixed or limited mindset – or just over-thinking.

Innovative Thinking in the Design Thinking Process

To understand where people oftentimes find themselves treading water, we need to analyze the three stages of the innovation process I referenced, which is similar to the three core stages of the Design Thinking process taken from IDEO’s Human-Centered Design Process. (See this post with design thinking workshop resources for more on applying the frameworks.)

To deliver a new product, service, or program your customers or users actually want and need, Design Thinking instructs you to first HEAR, then CREATE and finally DELIVER. Hearing is actually talking to and listening to your customers and users to find out what problems and needs they have. Creating is that idea generation and prototyping of potential solutions. Of course, the final step is delivery, where you make your users or customers happy with the final product or service you’ve developed. When we are creating we are designing for someone specific…but sometimes we get hung up along the way to delivering something of value.

I. Hear (Challenges)

Throughout this process, I see many people, myself included, getting stuck on the first step – the hearing, listening and learning stage. I like to call it the student mode. Considering all of the time we spend in our education system, it’s no wonder we get stuck here. We spend twelve plus years of our lives learning how to study – with this approach so ingrained into us, we oftentimes convince ourselves that we need to know more about a subject to be competent to tackle the problem at hand. We think we need to hear more, gain more knowledge, take another class or get another degree to do something we just need to take action with! But the real learning comes from doing.

I’ve been there myself. When I first set out to interview innovation leaders within large organizations to learn and understand their challenges and approaches to innovation, I got stuck in the hearing stage. I started to see themes emerging at interviews five through 10, but I still didn’t stop – I didn’t think I had learned enough, but that wasn’t really true. I ultimately interviewed over 100 people. Luckily, it was fun.

I’ve seen other people get stuck here, too – they feel a need to continue their studies through a class or even through the pursuit of an additional degree. They might incessantly attend conferences to listen and network – they’re talking to the right people, but they are only engaging in conversations and don’t get to the actual stage of creating.

II. Create (Ideas)

Sometimes individuals lack the belief or efficacy that they can innovate or think of new approaches or ideas – they are not open to realizing that they might already have the skills and knowledge to take on the next step. Or, that they don’t need great skill or knowledge to be creative and start to list ideas or solutions or collaborate with others to come up with a viable answer.

People can also get stuck in the actual creating stage itself. They may not create an idea much less the many ideas that are often required to be analyzed, synthesized, diverged and converged into an innovative concept. Or, they may start to make ideas, even discovering that creating and designing can be really fun components of the process, but don’t advance to the next step. These are the people you see working in a coffee shop, jotting down ideas in fine moleskin journals but never showing anyone else the ideas they are working on. They are not delivering real solutions or innovations that will benefit anyone because they stay in the mind, journal, or on their computer. They haven’t gone public with their ideas…even at a small scale to a few other people. They have to take action – that is the final stage.

III. Deliver (Action)

An important lesson in life to learn is that it is oftentimes better to take action on something that isn’t that amazing than it is to wait until you’ve created something amazing – because it is impossible to know when that day will come. The rough stuff can be polished and made better with others ideas. Perfectionism kills innovation. Smart people especially tend to do a lot of thinking and can be prone to overanalyzing and overthinking.

In essence, an innovative mindset is about something finding a structure or solution that will help you to take action and move through the basic stages of innovation or design thinking. Move swiftly and with agility through Hearing (Challenges), Creating (Ideas), and Delivering (Action) to those you are designing or innovating for.

Innovative Thinking

For strategies and ways to overcome where you might be treading water, read the complimentary post to this: How to Get Unstuck in your Mindset to Innovate. Or for the greatest impact, contact us for a live innovation workshop at your site or learn virtually with our online innovative mindset workshop to help with this and improve your innovative thinking. We can also design a custom design thinking training for your organization to be delivered remotely or on-site. An innovation keynote speaker may also help your group with innovative thinking.

Innovative Thinking Mindset


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