Deep innovation knowledge and insights from experts of the verrocchio Institute 

Table of Contents

What is an innovative mindset?

As soon as you start thinking more intensively about questions such as “What is innovation exactly?” or “What does it mean to be innovative?”, you very quickly come across the magic buzzword “mindset”. My colleague Christian clarified in his article that “being innovative” has a lot to do with certain characteristics of a person.

Even if it doesn’t feel like that anymore due to its frequent use in German, it is an English term and means something like way of thinking, attitude or (mental) stance. So the term itself implies that Mindset is something you can actively choose. But let’s start from the beginning.

Why is an innovative mindset important?

As mentioned at the beginning, we very quickly come across the mindset issue as soon as we start dealing with the topic of innovation. But why is that actually the case?

To do this, we take a look at the foundation of innovative capability: the triangle of forces. From years and decades of innovation and innovation research, it is now known that an (increased) innovation capability of a team or a company is always given when three core prerequisites are met:

  • People’s willingness to change
  • The change competence of people
  • The opportunities for change that are given to people

Together, these three prerequisites form the pillars of the triangle of forces of innovative capability. If one of these pillars is missing, then the ability to innovate becomes difficult. In exactly these prerequisites we find our Mindset again: the readiness of people to change, also well translatable with the “want”. People who innovate successfully literally have the “will” to do so and bring the right attitude with them – in other words, they have the right mindset.

What constitutes an innovative mindset?

In the aforementioned article by my colleague, Christian described a few basic characteristics that make up an innovative person – in other words, a person who brings an innovative mindset to the table. These are taken up again here:

  • The firm belief in being able to change something through one’s own efforts
  • The intrinsic motivation to put energy into an idea
  • The openness to new things, associated with a higher tolerance for uncertainty and risk
  • Curiosity and a constant interest in understanding and improving the world
  • Willingness to change and take risks, also to deviate from classic patterns
  • Empathy, because good ideas always meet the needs of other people in an excellent way

At this point, I would like to add a few points that relate specifically to a very distinct innovative mindset. So, if we meet a person of whom we would say that he really has everything that is possible to bring, then we would see in him these characteristics in addition to those mentioned above:

  • Creativity – even if everyone is more or less equally creative, some people just find it easy to think creatively
  • The joy of experimentation and the lack of fear of making mistakes
  • Problem and solution orientation, i.e. being able to actively put oneself in the position of a problem and understand it well, as well as having a good feeling for possible solutions
  • Flexibility and a high degree of adaptability, because only those who react quickly to changes and do not cling to mistakes and ideas that do not work have a higher chance of successful innovation

If we now look at all these points, it is noticeable that they refer to the characteristics of an individual person and make little reference to the team dynamics essential for successful innovation. In today’s highly volatile and highly complex society, innovating only works as a team – the era of the Thomas Edisons of this world is simply over. So let’s take a look at a team’s collective innovative mindset.

What is an innovative mindset?
Illustration ©Christina Fiedler

What makes an innovative team?

If a handful of people come together who all bring the described overall attitude, the icing on the cake for the success of this team would be, in my view, certain interpersonal dynamics:

  • Actively lived empathy for each other: an empathy for the customer or the user is of course of central importance (as described above), but actively lived empathy within the innovation team is at least as important. Because only if you actively put yourself in the shoes of your team members can you understand why he or she had exactly this idea, how exactly it is meant, so that you can exploit the full potential of the idea and combine this idea meaningfully with other ideas. When we act empathically towards our fellow human beings we can harness the collective potential of the entire team.
  • Active listening: Very closely linked to this active empathy is active listening. Firstly, because it forms the basis for empathy in action, both towards the customer (we need to listen carefully to our customer in order to understand her!) and towards our teammate. But Active Listening has another effect: the lived appreciation. The counterpart feels heard in the truest sense and thus valued. This is the only way she feels comfortable in the team and is willing to give everything for the team’s success.
  • Firm belief in the power and positivity of the team: Last but not least, the basic attitude towards one’s own team is absolutely crucial for their success in innovating. It is this typical “together we can do it, together we are strong and master every challenge” idea that is also strongly reminiscent of the coach of a soccer team. This mental connection is no accident – in the end, it’s a strong sense of “we” that can make or break the long-term success of ideas.

Can you learn innovative mindset?

When looking at these characteristics of an innovative-minded person or even an innovative-minded team, the feeling can quickly creep up on you that you either have all of these traits naturally or you are just unlucky and not blessed with them. This is wrong from my point of view! Of course, some people find it naturally easier, for example, to be very open to new things or to be able to easily identify the core of a problem. But as with so many things in life, this too can be learned. And that works best, who would have thought, through practice and “just doing it”. Anyone who actively joins a team, observes, is attentive and remains positive is already well on the way to consolidating the innovative mindset for themselves.

How do I find people who are willing to live innovative mindset?

This question is probably asked by just about every company. As consultants, we often get asked this question as well. Our answer is always the same: best with a fairy tale! Strictly speaking, the fairy tale of the cobbler. Benno will best tell you personally what this is all about:

Handwritten by Christina Fiedler