When we think about what it means to be an innovator, all manner of attributes can come to mind: motivator, problem-solver, listener, communicator, hard worker, brainstormer … As a young person at high school who has taken on projects and studied hard, it’s likely you’ll have a couple of these attributes already.
But what can you do to be a more innovative thinker? We asked five innovation experts for their advice, to get your mind buzzing.
Think outside the box
Approach a problem from a different angle. Turn it upside down. Director of Deakin’s CADET Virtual Reality Lab, Dr Ben Horan, is constantly thinking about how to do things – and more often than not they haven’t been done before.
‘Engage with as wide an audience as possible – out-of-the-box ideas can result from discussions with someone with an entirely different skill set and perspective on things,’ Dr Horan suggests. That’s how Verity, the ‘Virtual Reality Intrapartum Touch Trainer’, came about – with a chance discussion between Dr Horan and Associate Professor Helen Forbes from the School of Nursing and Midwifery.
According to Professor Ian Gibson, a pioneer in his field of 3D printing, an inclusive environment is also a must. ‘People at all levels should feel confident in voicing their own opinions without being labelled in any way. I get some of my best ideas from discussions with both professionals and students.’
Embrace and overcome roadblocks
It might feel demoralising, but roadblocks are an important part of innovative thought processes. ‘If you’re put off by a roadblock, then your level of conviction and commitment to the idea may not have been strong enough and the idea may, in fact, deserve to fail,’ Prof. Gibson says. Harsh words, ‘but if you’ve got a feeling you’re right, that should be enough to keep you moving,’ he adds.
Challenges are an unavoidable part of working in high tech, and Dr Horan thinks it’s important to take the time to acknowledge successes and ‘remember that problems are an opportunity to do something new’.
Simeon Taylor, a lecturer on motion capture who has seen his work on the big screen with Happy Feet, is constantly surprised by how often just talking about a problem will bring out obvious, or not so obvious, solutions that he missed when he was tackling it alone. ‘When you hit a roadblock, remind yourself what the end goal is, and see if there isn’t another way to get to it. Also talk to people – anyone you can find!’
Convince others that your ideas have value
Daizy Maan, Manager of Deakin’s entrepreneurship program, SPARK, helps people grow their startup ideas. ‘When it comes to entrepreneurship, the value of an idea does lie in the execution. If you are pitching your idea, you should also know your market very well,’ Maan advises. ‘Know what problem your idea will solve, how it makes things more efficient, and how your idea will be applied.’
Director of Deakin’s Motion Lab, Associate Professor Sean Redmond, agrees: ‘You need to be well prepared, evidence- or hypothesis-based and try not to shoot from the hip. Visualise it, rehearse your arguments and invest your ideas with value and consequence.’
Dr Horan agrees too: ‘It’s the onus of the innovator to clearly identify the value of the innovation.’