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This article was published on January 22, 2018

How I fight innovation block as I get older

How I fight innovation block as I get older
AJ Agrawal
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AJ Agrawal

AJ Agrawal is the Founder of Verma Media, a leading growth agency in San Francisco that focuses on partnering with disruptive technologies. AJ Agrawal is the Founder of Verma Media, a leading growth agency in San Francisco that focuses on partnering with disruptive technologies. In addition to being a geeky marketer, AJ is a runner and surfer. While attending the University of San Diego, he ran division 1 cross country and track and field.

Listen, I’ll be the first to admit it: it’s not easy getting older.

Personally, there’s something inescapably frustrating about feeling myself slow down when I simply can’t afford to. But more than that, I’m irritated when I can sense myself thinking something is a good idea because it’s familiar.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always viewed ‘comfort’ and ‘growth’ as two points on opposite ends of a spectrum. And while this might seem like a personal issue at first glance, you can rest assured that your ability to embrace change is going to have a massive impact on your work.

I’m sure you’ve dealt with it once or twice. Writers call it a creative block, but it’s infinitely easier to experience innovation block with your business. So, what are your options?

Well, I’ve found that no two types of innovation block function quite the same way. That’s why today, we’re going to take a look at some of the more common versions of innovation block.

More importantly, we’re going to give you tangible steps that you can take to get yourself out of that innovation block and get yourself (and your business) back on track.

Mental blocks

Arguably the most common version of innovation block is the mental block. Artists experience it all the time, but it’s important to address that it can just as easily happen to business professionals.

But before we can go about solving this issue, we first need to break it down and understand what’s happening to you.

For the sake of keeping things simple, let’s look at a mental block as a state where you’re trapped in your own thoughts. More specifically, you’re so locked in a particular way of looking at the world and your business that you fail to see any other options available to you.

Suddenly you start making assumptions and before you know it, you’re approaching the problem from a limiting perspective.

What does this look like in a professional setting? Typically the first sign of this is an inability to come up with ideas for compelling content. Then, you’re unsure of how to market that content. You get the idea.

Frustrating, right?

Well, instead of sitting around, hoping it’ll magically go away (hint: it won’t), you can start attacking the problem.

My preferred method? Start questioning everything. The easiest place to start is with your assumptions. After all, understanding your problem is 50 percent of solving it.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s try a little thought experiment. Let’s say that you just thought up a few ideas for content, but convinced yourself they wouldn’t work.

Okay, let’s question that assumption. Why wouldn’t that content work? Well, that’s because my audience needs something more in-depth and actionable.

Great! So, how can we make this content more in-depth and actionable? If the issue is providing value to your audience, we can figure out how to properly do that simply by analyzing the reasons why certain kinds of content wouldn’t work.

Of course, that’s just one example of the kinds of mental and innovation blocks you’ll experience. What’s important to remember is that by starting at the ideal situation and reverse engineering a solution that’s custom-tailored to fit your audience, you won’t have to worry about predicting the future.

All you have to do is make sure you’re innovating by providing more value to your audience with every piece of content or product you release to them.

Which actually brings me to my second point…

Work hard, play hard

Thinking up new ideas for your business is hard. And it’s not just because truly creative ideas are so difficult to come by.

The truth about our business lives is that we tend to view things as an all-or-nothing venture. “If this idea doesn’t work, it could mean the end for my business.” “If we’re going to do anything at all, it needs to be perfect.”

That’s the mentality that drives innovation block: a fear of repercussions.

But what if you could remove that?

What if work was about fostering creativity and taking calculated risks was just an accepted part of the culture?

More and more companies are adding a gaming element to increase creativity among their workforce, and they could be on to something. Research is starting to show that playgrounds aren’t just for kids.  Studies have been done arguing that play time is a great way to increase innovation in adults.

The idea of injecting creativity into business isn’t something new. In fact, companies like 3M expect their employees to use 15 percent of their paid time to hatch their own ideas.

It’s not some artistic fantasy. In fact, if we’re being completely honest, fostering an innovation dynamic within your business might be the only surefire way to ensure that you’ll never have to battle with innovation block again.

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