Window into Wipfli

The innovation mindset is open to everyone

By Zac Charnecki 

It would be an understatement to say that an enormous amount of content has been dedicated to the concept of innovation, including what it means, how to access it and where it’s headed in the future. There’s no shortage of experts from the academic, science and business arenas who make a living by giving speeches and writing books on the topic of innovation.

While a good deal of this content is quite helpful, the sheer volume and the credentials of the “experts” may sometimes make of us feel like we can’t possibly explore and pursue innovation on our own terms. We may feel the innovative wizzes we see in the media are the “chosen few” who have the brains to unlock the benefits of innovation. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

I believe we all have the power to innovate in ways unique to us as individuals, which is what brings meaning to our work and advances the world around us. Through my role at Wipfli, I am fortunate to have the flexibility and resources to deeply pursue the concept of innovation and unlock the paths that make it accessible to everyone across our organization, to the benefit of our clients, associates and firm.

I enjoy sharing my insights on this important topic, particularly in terms of how it can elevate our profession, drive viable results and make what we do even more rewarding. Underlying my passion on the subject is the fact I consider myself a perennial student of innovation. It’s not that I don’t have expertise or insights. Rather, I view openness to innovation as the core of a mindset that influences how we approach problem-solving, idea generation and creativity.

A commitment to being innovative can stand as a pillar within our practice coloring how we see things, ultimately impacting the results we deliver. It’s easier than you think to get there. Here are three of my key beliefs on embracing innovation:

First, anyone can be innovative

Each of us is unique, and each of us possesses the ability to share our individual perspectives, which can get us outside the box of normality. It’s also an inclusive way of thinking, with no barriers based on constructs like culture, ethnicity or religious beliefs. Sure, as human beings we each have different skills, creative drives and passions, which may govern what kinds of jobs we pursue and what we do with our free time. And that’s all good because the universal spark driving innovation is not limited in any one personality trait or industry for that matter. It’s open to everyone!

Second, know where you add value

Very simply, innovation is the introduction of something new. This is different than having an idea, although that’s part of it. Innovation is a process enabling ideas to come to life. The key to innovating is knowing your unique strengths and how you can add value within the overall process that’s introducing change in what you do and what you are involved with. Great innovation does not occur in a vacuum. It thrives when open-minded people practice teamwork to solve problems in new ways.

Third, it’s OK to trip and fall

Pursuing innovation is not an easy task. It requires a mindset — and part of the mindset is the understanding that our attempts may not always work. But, within the failures, we learn and grow and discover new ideas and ways of doing things. Innovation is not about sticking to the past — it’s about learning from it and continually embracing different approaches that deliver better outcomes. This will naturally lead to bumps in the road, but that rocky path is well worth pursuing.

So, if you don’t always feel that innovative, don’t get discouraged. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula to innovation, but we can embrace the right mindset. And if you are a leader, this is why it is so vital to take steps to demystify innovation across your team. Mirror the mindset that fosters innovation. Leaders need to be a source of inspiration and support and take an inclusive approach to communicating and encouraging everyone to contribute in their own unique ways. Amazing things can happen when we work together and are given the room to explore and share our unique perspectives freely.Don’t forget to ask yourself these questions every day. Do you have a passion for what you do? Do you enjoy growing in your area of expertise? Are you open to doing things better? If you’ve said yes to any of these questions, you’re on the path to being innovative in your own unique way. Now, you just have to lean in.

Zac Charnecki

Zac Charnecki
Director, Innovation & Transformation

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