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Forced innovation

In the movie The Martian, Matt Damon grows potatoes on Mars. And he does so by using his own DIY fertilizer. This serves as a wonderful analogy for us earthlings: we have to go through a bunch of crap failures to get a good potato idea.

In times of crisis and difficulties, things become messy and chaotic, circumstances change at great speed, and with that, a unique opportunity arises. When things change so fast, minds can change at the same rate.

The common knowledge effect (or the generalized expression of “this is how things have always been done”) that dominates habits in organizations, disappears in moments of crisis, because precisely those processes in chaotic moments do not work.

Crises give us the opportunity (or the need) to do things differently. This drive gives us the ability to unlearn old processes and routines, and build a foundation of good new habits and fertile soil to maintain a growth mindset. Our mentality becomes malleable.

Daring to be creative

Failure is a key ingredient of creativity and innovation. In order to be creative, we must be willing to take risks. The first thing we have to accept, in order to discover inspiring ideas,  is that many of those ideas will not work or will be discarded. But those ideas will be as important as the innovative ones because they will create inertia in a team to speak up freely.

One good practice is to take time to discuss every “bad” idea, no matter how crazy or ridiculous it may seem since this discussion will serve as a practice and confidence builder for when we get to the not-so-bad ideas or even great ones.  

Let’s make sure that everyone on the team has a sit on the table and most importantly, the confidence to get their thoughts on the table, as collective intelligence will naturally emerge eventually.

Playing the devil's advocate

Don’t forget to always ask all the hard questions, looking at all angles, trying to find a flaw in your idea or product. The best ally for boundless optimism is enthusiastic skepticism, that way, creativity and iteration can be combined. Whenever someone detects something that is unworkable, they immediately begin to fix it as a team. Skepticism is not the enemy of innovation, it actually unlocks the potential of any idea.

Discovering the flaws of a project does not always mean killing it, it usually means pivoting the idea so that it takes a more productive form. 

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