When it comes to developing new ideas that will be meaningful to your most important customers, breakthrough insights can come from anywhere. Some evolve by thinking more laterally about what’s right in front of us. But others come from educating ourselves in ideas and disciplines that are outside our core area of expertise, our industry, or our life experience.
For example, one of the ways Steve Jobs came up with new ideas was to maintain a lifelong interest in learning and new experiences. While in college, Jobs took a course in calligraphy, which at the time had no practical application to his work. What he experienced came to life later in the Macintosh computer, the first of its kind to prioritise typeface, fonts and calligraphy.
When considering your team’s professional development needs, try to think more broadly than technical training that further entrenches the status quo. Technical training is an important way to keep staff qualifications up-to-date, but mostly maintains the baseline and isn’t the best way to deliver new thinking – especially when all your competitors are doing the same programs.
So help your team to learn more laterally. They can learn leadership from an explorer who has spent time leading a team in Antarctica, or learn better ways to relate to colleagues and customers by talking to a social worker who helps people navigate very complex personal or family issues.
Innovating in a long-term business relationship is fascinating and inspiring, but it’s also time consuming and difficult. New projects take time to deliver results and give us tangible evidence to talk to the customer about. Going wide for new ideas helps keep the fun in the game for your team, and ensure that innovation actually happens.
Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business won through formal bids, tenders and proposals. She is the author of two books on proposals and sales, including Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. Read more here.