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Innovation often looks like an uncontrollable force that only strikes upon lucky entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. However, research has proven that creative ideas are all around us, in all types of organizations. In fact, of the top 30 innovations that most transformed the world in the last 30 years—ideas like open-source software, e-commerce, biofuels, and email—over 70% came from employees working within established organizations. What do these internal innovators have in common, and what sets them apart from would-be creators who don’t quite make it? It begins with their ability to recognize and act on opportunities.
In a fascinating study, psychologist Richard Wiseman studied two groups of people: Those who considered themselves lucky and those who considered themselves unlucky. He asked each group to look through a newspaper and count how many photographs were inside. On average, the “unlucky” people took two minutes to answer. The “lucky” people often completed the task in seconds. What was the difference?
On page 2 of the newspaper was a message: “Stop counting—There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” The half-page message was written in large type, so it should have been hard to miss. Yet, the people who considered themselves unlucky tended to overlook it.
Wiseman’s research concluded that lucky people practice certain habits that help to generate their own good fortune: They are skilled at noticing chance opportunities. They make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition. They create self-fulfilling prophesies by developing positive expectations, and they adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good. Lucky people step into a situation with an intention of finding luck—so they tend to find it. Unlucky people often miss opportunity even when it is staring them in the face. They barrel right past that print advertisement, hunting for photos, never expecting that, maybe, some luck may come their way.
Do you notice all of the unexpected opportunities that reveal themselves throughout the day? What might your career, business, or life look like if you did?
Whether or not you consider yourself lucky depends on the habits you practice and the beliefs you set for yourself. Even when we are able to spot creative opportunities, most of us face mental blocks that prevent us from acting upon them. So, how can you shift your thinking to become one of the lucky ones? The following 5-step process is designed to help you overcome creative blocks and pursue innovative ideas.
Step 1: Diagnose Your Beliefs
The first step on the path to innovation is intent. When your intention to innovate is strong, you are most likely to see and seize opportunities. Therefore, it’s critical to identify and eliminate whatever blockers may be getting in the way of your ability to see opportunities, and to identify what stops you from taking action. Research suggests that there are three kinds of beliefs that stop people from discovering and acting on opportunities: behavioral beliefs (“this won’t work”), control beliefs (“I am not capable”), and normative beliefs (“people won’t approve”).