Seth Godin recently had a short and simple post in which he argued that the best way to learn marketing is to do marketing. Sweet and simple.
Does this also apply to innovation? Is the best way to learn how to innovate simply to innovate? I think so although innovation is more complex than marketing as innovation covers many phases ranging from discovery to incubation to acceleration (of which marketing is a key element).
Since almost everything starts with ideas (technology, a product or service or a business model), you can build your innovation skills by becoming better at sharing your ideas with others and observe how people can build on the ideas of others. Social media is a great tool for this and one of the key reasons that we getting to a point in which innovation is being truly democratized.
You can of course not share ideas that you don’t own (those of your company), but you can still practice innovation with ideas of your own. We all have hundreds of touchpoints (interactions with others in the real or virtual world) every day – in personal as well as business life. Try to focus on some of these touch points and think about how you can improve what is happening around this touch point.
Share your thoughts and ideas with others. If you don’t already have a social media prescence, build one. See how far you can share your idea and learn what it takes to get input from others. Now, you are learning key things on innovation that you can take with you back to work and thus starting to be an even better contributor to the innovation efforts in your company.