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3 Ways to Boost Your Innovation

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Mark Zuckerberg made waves recently when he gave a commencement speech at Harvard, bringing up some bold ideas on the importance of purpose and the “freedom to fail.” Someone like Zuckerberg—the founder and CEO of Facebook—is known for his innovative thinking. But what about the rest of us? Can we boost our abilities to be innovative, regardless of whether or not we went to Harvard, or launched a revolutionary social media platform? According to a study out of the University of South Florida, the answer is yes.

“Contrary to the view that inspiration is purely mystic or divine, [it] is best viewed as an interaction between one’s current knowledge and the information one receives from the world,” suggested the study’s authors. For this week’s Healthy Habit, here are three ways to give your powers of innovation a boost.

1. Take Micro Risks

I stole this idea from Paul, my improv teacher. If you’re not willing to try silly, small risks—in this case, we were playing a clapping game—how can you go into the world and try anything major? Maybe you’re the person who never sings at karaoke, or dances at the wedding, or plays cornhole at the family reunion. Now is the time to become a participant in small risks. They embolden you to take greater leaps of innovation in the rest of your life.

2. Be Dissatisfied

I’m all for gratitude, but, the University of South Florida lists dissatisfaction as one of the characteristics that can be developed toward innovation. Spanx founder Sara Blakely is a good example. She was unhappy with pantyhose AND how she was looking in her white pants. The two thoughts came together to birth her idea for Spanx, she become a billionaire, and perhaps more importantly, a person who supports other female entrepreneurs.

3. Save 15 Percent for Experimentation

Make sure you are shaving off a little time to be creative and explore new concepts, whether it’s a new way to drive home, a new book to read, meeting someone interesting for coffee, signing up for a webinar, whatever. Companies like 3M ask their employees to use 15 percent of their time to explore new ideas. Try building a small pocket of time into your week and month where you can expose yourself to new ideas, and allow things to burble to the surface.


Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her latest book is Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.  


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