Innovation is a frequently-used buzzword, but what exactly does it mean and how does it apply to you?
Innovation is like a vaccine against burnout. It keeps you growing, developing, and thinking creatively, and it helps you deal with stress. Even if you are in a less-than-optimal situation—crazy organizational politics, frustration with your manager, boredom in your current position—focusing on innovation can energize you to take the steps needed to be more engaged in your present career or to begin the job search.
Professional innovation can include doing what it takes to stay current in your present career field, developing skills that would help you move into another field, and finding formal and informal training opportunities to expand your competency in an area of your present field that interests you. One of my innovation strategies is attending a professional coaching conference every year. Not only does it give me an opportunity to travel all over the country, but my enthusiasm sparks as I learn new coaching trends and get recharged by the amazing professionals in my field. I also attend workshops to stay up to date on the latest assessments and coaching techniques to use with my clients.
Innovation isn’t just for professional activities. I have friends who are teachers and close to being burned out from their careers despite their young ages, yet they do not want to leave the profession. A key strategy for people in this situation is to find an innovation goal that inspires and recharges them on a personal level. Innovation might include taking a class on a subject that interests you, attending a craft workshop to try out a potential new hobby, or returning to an athletic activity that you once enjoyed. One of my friends, no longer passionate about her job, took painting classes and found a new level of energy. She was so recharged, she was able to re-engage in her professional role. A personal innovation goal can make a positive difference in not only your personal life but your career as well.
Key to meaningful innovation is to first explore the vision you have for your professional and personal life, then ask yourself what goals you need to accomplish to achieve your vision. It is important to explore whether or not the goals you come up with are personally meaningful to you and worth your time and effort. I have seen in my practice that too many professionals focus on certifications or advanced degree programs even though they have no idea how the degree or certificate could enhance their careers. That is an example of wasting time, money, and energy.
Try one of these suggestions to incorporate innovation into your life:
- Is there a company whose commitment to innovation you admire? Notice the aspects of that organization that appeal to you. Can you introduce any of those aspects into your organization, department, or personal life?
- Volunteering is a great way to introduce innovation. Is there an organization with which you would like to get involved? Can you get involved with any volunteer programs at your company?
- Creativity and play are important for innovation. What can you do this week that is creative or playful?
- Professional and personal innovation can include reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching videos. What is a resource you have wanted to explore, and when will you make time for it?
It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you are in your career or personal life—it’s never too late to innovate!