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This Is How Innovative People Think!

This Is How Innovative People Think!

Check out these ten intelligent ways that innovative people think and act differently!

1. They pay attention to patterns.

Specifically, they utilize Apophenia, the ability to perceive patterns within random data to help point them toward relationships and potential problems. This tendency is tied, by necessity, to strong powers of observation. If you’re paying attention to what’s happening around you, you’re bound to notice a few patterns.

That’s a human tendency, after all. However, there are some people who see patterns in random happenings more than the average person. This ability to perceive a large number of patterns also allows for the ability to see potential problems before they are realized. People endowed with this ability often make excellent innovators and leaders.

However, Slate writer Katy Waldman points out that drawing too many connections can create its own problems:

“So apophenia cuts both ways – it’s a profoundly human habit of mind that can underlie adaptive behaviors and reward flights of fancy, or induce all kinds of paranoia and silliness.”

In fact, in its extreme form apophenia can signal the presence of schizophrenia – definitely not a desirable diagnosis. One example is the story of Bobby Fischer, recently documented in the historically-based film “Pawn Sacrifice.” Fischer was a chess champion whose thinking devolved into conspiratorial thinking and paranoia, but he was also a genius who very likely utilized apophenia to predict a significant number of moves that could be made during his chess matches.

2. They analyze data on a large scale.

After observing the patterns mentioned above, they funnel that tendency into concrete terms via analysis of data on a massive scale – or ‘big data.’ For example, D.J. Patil, the first resident data scientist of the White House, has stated that one of his main goals is to offer a “vision on how to provide maximum social return on federal data.” This goal is a very innovative one, and it serves as a positive signal to U.S. citizens that their government is trying to utilize the data being collected on them for something positive and useful – as opposed to stereotypes about the NSA and other breaches of privacy in the news.

3. They embrace high-risk situations.

For example, they derive funding from venture capital in order to help them fund new business ventures, a practice that is high risk but carries much potential for pay-offs and rewards.

Robert Mooradian, professor of Finance at Northeastern University, recently discussed venture capital as something that’s helping to support innovation:

“These big corporate structures don’t do as well in terms of getting new innovations started, in terms of developing new innovations, so most of these public companies are active in seeking out these kinds of targets [for acquisition].”

Because the startups involved in venture capital investments and funding have few financial assets, the investments are financially high-risk. However, these innovative startups often have a great deal of intellectual capital, a trait that is very attractive to venture capitalists. Another advantage to deriving funding from venture capitalists is the inherent publicity built in to sharing a project with the type of people who tend to invest in promising new startups is that those investors often carry a great deal of clout with fellow influencers with financial capital.

4. They are very curious.

Because they are very curious, they are interested in learning as much as they can from people and situations around them. They also seek out new information via recreational reading and conducting informal research on topics that interest them. Basically, they’re autodidacts: they love to learn on their own, without any external encouragement or traditional class structure needed.

In addition to traditional library-based research for new information, they also view every conversation as an opportunity to learn something new. They recognize that every individual is unique and has their own knowledge to offer to those willing to seek it out.

5. They are excellent listeners who are very empathetic.

That is, not only are they good at listening well to people and truly hearing what they have to say, but they also are able to mentally and emotionally put themselves in the speaker’s proverbial shoes, imagining what it would be like to live through the situation being presented to them. They have, in other words, a high degree of emotional intelligence. This ability lends credence to the listener, from the speaker’s perspective. As a result, good listeners make very good managers, since working side-by-side – metaphorically speaking – is often much more motivating for employees than working with a top-down approach.

6. They are persistent.

That is, while they strive for perfection, they continue going forward, regardless of obstacles or pauses in the momentum of their progress. The statistics about Abraham Lincoln come to mind. As this article interestingly points out, Lincoln’s successes were as numerous as his failures; it was because of his persistence, in fact, that he was able to succeed. Inevitably, a large number of attempts will include a certain number of failures – due to imperfection and statistical chance, among other factors. If you fail to try a substantial number of times, however, your effort is bound to yield fewer successes than if you’d put in a few more attempts.

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7. They are inherently creative and understand the creative process.

Take, for another example, the writer’s life, which requires an enormous amount of patience, considering the time and dedication that a book necessitates. Some of the best advice my thesis advisor ever gave me was the following succinct imperative: “Don’t rush.”

Yes, it’s possible to finish a book in a year, but why would you want to do that? It would likely be less impressive than the same document more thoroughly revised and sat with for a more substantial amount of time – so as to allow the ideas and images to sufficiently percolate and develop. This is the nature of the creative process. It demands a sort of two steps forward, one step back kind of approach that inevitably involves a great deal of ‘muddling,’ or experimentation.

8. They embrace paradoxical thinking.

The rejection of either/or thinking is one of the most crucial elements that go into good critical thinking.

As number ten on this list reminds us, “Great innovators do not see the world in black and white. While many people come to “either/or” conclusions, they strive to see “both/and.”

This idea reminds me of Walt Whitman’s lines from section 51 of “Song of Myself” that argue so passionately for complexity:

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“Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

The greatest thinkers are always keenly aware of the value of paradox and complexity in all things.

9. They are non-conformists.

In other words, good innovators choose to avoid what everyone else is doing and set out on their own, instead. Take Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and CEO of Slack who was recently named 2015 Technology Innovator by Wall Street Journal magazine. Slack is a new chat room app that has become wildly popular and has apparently become “the fastest-growing business application of all time.” That’s quite an achievement.

Yet the concept is simple: provide a chat room environment that feels more spacious – its virtual ‘rooms’ are larger than those of Google messenger, for example – while also providing a convenient, flexible, and interactive way for colleagues to share files. With those characteristics, Slack combines the best features of email and IM platforms. It also adds characteristics of social sharing sites like Facebook by enabling emoji-style reactions to conversation channels. The result is a messaging app that doesn’t conform in the slightest.

10. They are “human, yet highly resilient.”

A recent article by Kim Booth emphasizes several different traits often found in innovative leaders, and one of them was the ability to show resilience in the face of opposition and setbacks. Inherent resilience is a highly desirable trait for someone to have, especially when surrounded by people who might be scared or confused. This is a wonderful leadership quality that comes in handy especially during times of uncertainty or chaos – such as corporate restructuring, or a company move to a new building.

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During times like these, it’s important to have a leader who provides an example of idealistic, resilient thinking; providing this type of example inspires endurance and courage in others, as well as unique, innovative ways to deal with hardship and uncertainty. In fact, sometimes it is uncertainty that allows for the most innovative kinds of thinking: what is there to lose, after all, when there’s nowhere to go but up?

Next time you’re stuck and having trouble moving forward on a project or personal goal, try changing direction with a new approach taken from one of the ten ideas listed above. Let me know how it goes in the comments below!

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

There’s no denying that goals are necessary. After all, they give life meaning and purpose. However, goals don’t simply achieve themselves—you need to write an action plan to help you reach your goals.

With an action plan, you’ll have a clear idea of how to get where you want to go, what it will take to get there, and how you’ll find the motivation to keep driving forward. Without creating a plan, things have a way of not working out as you waver and get distracted.

With that in mind, here’s how you can set goals and action plans that will help you achieve any personal goal you’ve set.

1. Determine Your “Why”

Here’s a quick experiment for you to try right now: Reflect on the goals you’ve set before. Now, think about the goals you reached and those you didn’t. Hopefully, you’ll notice a common theme here.

The goals you were successful in achieving had a purpose. Those goals you failed to accomplish did not. In other words, you knew why you put these goals in place, which motivated you to follow through.

Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Finding Purpose for You and Your Team, explains:

“Once you understand your WHY, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you’re at your natural best. When you can do that, you’ll have a point of reference for everything you do going forward.”

That, in turn, enables better decision-making and clearer choices.

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I’ll share with you a recent example of this in my life. Earlier this year, I decided to make my health a bigger priority, specifically losing weight. I set this goal because it gave me more energy at work, improved my sleep, and helped me be a better father—I really didn’t care for all that wheezing every time I played with my kids.

Those factors all gave me a long-term purpose, not a superficial short-term goal like wanting to look good for an event.

Before you start creating an action plan, think about why you’re setting a new goal. Doing so will guide you forward on this journey and give you a North Star to point to when things get hard (and they inevitably will).

2. Write Down Your Goal

If you really want to know how to create an action plan for goals, it’s time to get your goals out of your head and onto a piece of paper. While you can also do this electronically through an app, research has found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goal if it’s written down[1].

This is especially true for business owners. If they don’t schedule their time, it’ll be scheduled for them.[2]

When you physically write down a goal, you’re accessing the left side of the brain, which is the literal, logical side. As a result, this communicates to your brain that this is something you seriously want to do.

3. Set a SMART Goal

A SMART goal pulls on a popular system in business management[3]. That’s because it ensures the goal you’ve set is both realistic and achievable. It can also be used as a reference to guide you through your action plan.

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Use SMART goals to create a goal action plan.

     

    By establishing a SMART goal, you can begin to brainstorm the steps, tasks, and tools you’ll need to make your actions effective.

    • Specific: You need to have specific ideas about what you want to accomplish. To get started, answer the “W” questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
    • Measurable: To make sure you’re meeting the goal, establish tangible metrics to measure your progress. Identify how you’ll collect the data.
    • Attainable: Think about the tools or skills needed to reach your goal. If you don’t possess them, figure out how you can attain them.
    • Relevant: Why does the goal matter to you? Does it align with other goals? These types of questions can help you determine the goal’s true objective — and whether it’s worth pursuing.
    • Time-bound: Whether it’s a daily, weekly, or monthly target, deadlines can motivate us to take action sooner than later.

    Learn more about setting a SMRT goal here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

    4. Take One Step at a Time

    Have you ever taken a road trip? You most likely had to use a map to navigate from Point A to Point B. The same idea can be applied to an action plan.

    Like a map, your action plan needs to include step-by-step instructions on how you’ll reach your goal. In other words, these are mini goals that help you get where you need to go.

    For example, if you wanted to lose weight, you’d consider smaller factors like calories consumed and burned, minutes exercised, number of steps walked, and quality of sleep. Each plays a role in weight loss.

    This may seem like a lot of work upfront, but it makes your action plan seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Most importantly, it helps you determine the specific actions you need to take at each stage.

    5. Order Your Tasks by Priority

    With your action steps figured out, you’ll next want to review your list and place your tasks in the order that makes the most sense. This way, you’re kicking things off with the most important step to make the biggest impact, which will ultimately save time.

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    For example, if you have a sedentary job and want to lose weight, the first step should be becoming even a little more active. From there, you can add more time to your workout plan.

    The next step could be changing your diet, like having a salad before dinner to avoid overeating, or replacing soda with sparkling water.

    Learn these tips to prioritize better: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    6. Schedule Your Tasks

    Setting a deadline for your goal is a must; it prevents you from delaying the start of your action plan. The key, however, is to be realistic. It’s highly unlikely, for example, that you’ll lose 20 pounds within two weeks. It’s even less likely that you’ll keep it off.

    What’s more, you should also assign tasks a start and end date for each action step you’ve created, as well as a timeline for when you’ll complete specific tasks. Adding them to your schedule ensures that you stay focused on these tasks when they need to happen, not letting anything else distract you.

    For example, if you schedule gym time, you won’t plan anything else during that time frame.

    Beware the temptation to double-book yourself—some activities truly can be combined, like a run while talking to a friend, but some can’t. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can both write and catch up on Netflix simultaneously.

    While you can use a paper calendar or planner, an online calendar may be a better option. You can use it to set deadlines or reminders for when each step needs to be taken, and it can be shared with other people who need to be in the know (like your running buddy or your mentor).

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    7. Stay on Track With Healthy Habits

    Without healthy habits, it’s going to be even more challenging to reach your goal. You could hit the gym five days a week, but if you’re grabbing burgers for lunch every day, you’re undoing all your hard work.

    Let’s say your goal is more career-oriented, like becoming a better public speaker. If you practice your speeches at Toastmasters meetings but avoid situations where you’ll need to be unrehearsed—like networking gatherings or community meetings—you’re not helping yourself.

    You have to think about what will help transform you into the person you want to be, not just what’s easiest or most comfortable.

    8. Check off Items as You Go

    You may think you’ve spent a lot of time creating lists. Not only do they help make your goals a reality, but lists also keep your action plan organized, create urgency, and help track your progress. Because lists provide structure, they reduce anxiety.

    There’s something else special about lists of tasks completed. When you cross off a task in your action plan, your brain releases dopamine[4]. This reward makes you feel good, and you’ll want to repeat this feeling.

    If you crossed out on your calendar the days you went to the gym, you’d want to keep experiencing the satisfaction of each bold “X.” That means more motivation to go the gym consistently.

    9. Review and Reset as Necessary

    Achieving any personal goal is a process. Although it would be great if you could reach a goal overnight, it takes time. Along the way, you may experience setbacks. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, schedule frequent reviews—daily, weekly, or monthly—to see how you’re progressing.

    If you aren’t where you’d hoped to be, you may need to alter your action plan. Rework it so you’re able to reach the goal you’ve set.

    The Bottom Line

    When you want to learn how to set goals and action plans—whether you want to lose weight, learn a new skill, or make more money—you need to create a realistic plan to get you there. It will guide you in establishing realistic steps and time frames to achieve your goal. Best of all, it will keep you on track when you stumble, and we all do.

    More on Goal Action Plans

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

    Reference

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