Innovation isn’t hard… it’s just weird. Because it’s the exact opposite of what we’ve always done.

After years of minimising deviation, avoiding risk and punishing failure, suddenly we have to nurture deviation, take risks and encourage failure. How can the exact opposite of what we always do be anything other than wrong?

I’ve been driving across America recently and it’s shown me just how quickly all my hard-earned experience and finely-honed instincts can get me killed.

As far as my brain is concerned, I’ve been driving on the wrong side of the road going the wrong way while steering from the wrong side of the car, so every fibre in my body has been pushing me to do what I’ve always done, no matter how catastrophic the consequences.

So I’ve been thinking about how to reprogram my brain.

Whether we’re talking about driving innovation or the interstate, it’s a good idea to start small; your first ventures should be simple, straightforward tripswith as few twists and turns as possible. For the innovator that might mean focusing on easy, quick wins with something so broken you couldn’t possibly make it worse. For me it meant driving around the airport carpark a dozen times before hitting the road.

Preview the danger points. Where are your typical responses likely to create the greatest damage? For me it was left turns, so I’d preview each trip in advance so I knew exactly where my instincts would be fatal. Where are your first reactions likely to kill the innovation process? Why not rehearse what you might do instead?

Follow others who get it. Look around; is anyone getting the results you wanted? What are they doing that you aren’t… or visa versa?

Invent mantras. If your instinct is to shut down ideas before they have a chance to breathe, create simple sayings that short-circuit your default behaviour – bad ideas usually die on their own. (Hey, that’s not bad!) For me, the old plumber’s mnemonic ‘lefty loosey, righty tighty’ proved invaluable when it came to intersections.

Distrust your instinct. Remember, that innovation is Business as Unusual… take a second to have a second thought.

Above all, do whatever feels wrong.

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Written by Jason Clarke

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Celebrated author, adventurer, gold medal Olympian and popular TV chef; Jason is none of these things. He is, however, one of the most sought-after creative minds in the country. As founder of Minds at Work, he’s helped people ‘think again’ since the end of the last century, working with clients across Australia in virtually every industry and government sector on issues ranging from creativity and trouble shooting to culture change and leadership.