Are You Trading Innovation for Efficiency? @GAllenTC

flickr photo shared by Guy Sie under a CC license
flickr photo shared by Guy Sie under a CC license

by Gayle Allen | Featured Contributor

For the first time in a long time, your schedule feels manageable. Your workflows are humming, and you’re ahead of the game with deliverables. Everything should be great, but there’s just one problem. You can’t seem to stifle the nagging voice in your head that keeps asking, “How will you stay ahead of the competition?”

Luckily, with all the information available on innovation, there are simple, easy ways to generate ideas that ensure growth and sustainability. In fact, in speaking with three of today’s top innovators — marketing genius Seth Godin, design school co-founder Bernie Roth, and entrepreneurship expert Adam Grant – I walked away with four tips to solve our innovation problem.

It’s Not the First 15 Ideas that Count.

Adam Grant, entrepreneurship expert, Wharton professor, and bestselling author spoke with me recently about effective idea generation. He shared that it’s not the first 15 ideas but the 20 you come up with after that. The next 20 are the ones with the greatest game-changing potential. So grab a cup of coffee, remove all distractions, and give yourself 20-30 minutes to spew your first 15 ideas. Then push yourself to generate another 20.

Peers have the answer.

Once you’ve come up with your game-changing 20 ideas, how do you know which ones to pursue? In my conversation with Adam Grant, he shared that the most talented entrepreneurs, entertainers, and business people decide on their best ideas in conversations with peers. So the next time you’ve got a list of great ideas, schedule a phone call, a walk, a lunch date or a coffee with trusted colleagues who do the work that you do. Your business will thank you for it.

Fear is Necessary.

When you’re caught up in a cycle of hyper efficiency, the dopamine hits you get by checking things off a to-do list can be addictive. It’s not easy to trade what you know for the fear and uncertainty required to innovate. Yet in my conversation with marketing guru Seth Godin, he explained that it’s the projects that scare us the most that have the greatest potential for reward. Why? Because they’re the ones everyone else is afraid of.

Ask Why.

Solve the right problem! When I spoke with Bernie Roth, design school co-founder and bestselling author, he said to state the problem and then ask why. Let’s say you’re less productive than you’d like. Ask yourself why. Are you overwhelmed, bored, unsure? If you discover you’re burned out, ask why again. Are you working too much? Do you need a new challenge? If the answer is overwork, ask why. Are you avoiding something? Notice how the problem’s shifted from lack of productivity to something else entirely, all by asking why.

Efficiency is a beautiful thing. It can help us reach our business goals and free up time for activities that recharge. But hyper-efficiency at the expense of innovation can put our business at risk. Let’s face it. It’s our most innovative ideas that will sustain us as human beings and as businesswomen. So try putting these innovators’ ideas into action and see where they take you!


Gayle AllenGayle Allen is an entrepreneur with a passion for connecting people to innovative ideas that improve their lives.

She is a founding member of the leadership team and Chief Learning Officer at BrightBytes, a company that’s garnered dozens of awards for improving the way the world learns. She’s also the founder and host of Curious Minds, the leading podcast on innovation that features global leaders rethinking life and work.

Gayle earned her MBA in Global Innovation from MIT and her doctorate in adult learning from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she served as an adjunct professor. She’s the author of The New Pillars of Modern Teaching, a book that offers an innovative vision for learning in the modern age. Gayle’s writing has been featured in leading publications, such as MindShift and NPR.

Connect with Gayle on her website, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter.

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