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Innovation on a Budget

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What do you do when you want to be innovative, but you have what you perceive to be an inadequate budget? You shift your mindset, and see this challenge as an opportunity.

If you're a video person, I lay it all out in the video below. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!

Hey there, Bill Stainton here with Turning Creativity into Money™. How are you doing? You look good, you look...you've done something with your hair, haven't you? I can't tell quite what it is, but I like it!

Hey, a few days ago, I was doing an innovation workshop for a group of team leaders across multiple industries. There were, I don't know, maybe 60 or 70 of them online. And at one point, one of these team leaders asked me a question that I've been asked before. She said, "I love this, I'd love to be more innovative, you know, both myself and with my team. We just don't have a very big budget. I mean, we're really constrained with our budget, and that, that makes it really, really tough to be innovative. Because we just, we don't have the budget." And my response to her was, "That's great news! Congratulations!"

Okay, now, why was that my response? Well, let me let me try to explain what I mean by that.

Innovation thrives on limitations. I know that seems a little counterintuitive. And we can talk about the whys and wherefores in another video, but just trust me, innovation thrives on limitations.

In fact, if you and your team have a situation and you want to apply some innovation to it— maybe it's a problem, maybe it's a challenge, maybe it's an opportunity—but you feel like, "Ooh, this could use some innovation."

Let's say, let's say there's a problem, and you need to be innovative. So that that's your situation.

If you want to kill the innovative spirit really quickly, here's what you do with that situation: throw money at it. It's one of the worst things you can do for innovation, because innovation loves to have these, these constraints, these limitations. It's true. Innovation really loves that, and innovative people love that, because they like the challenge.

That's when the innovators really like, they like, they like trying to solve the puzzle. So you give them a puzzle to try and solve, and having all the money in the world is not a puzzle that needs to be solved. You know, that's just not going to cut it for, for innovators.

If you're, if you're a leader, and one of your team leaders comes to you and says, "Hey, we have this thing that we want to do, it's going to take some innovation, and here's what it's going to take. It's going to take x amount of money and x amount of time." My advice to you give them x minus 10 percent on both fronts. Because one of the best things for innovation is to have not quite enough money and not quite enough time.

Because then the innovative people can get to work, because that's, that's, that's a puzzle that needs to be solved. And the innovative people can get to work and try and solve that.

So it really, it's really a mindset shift. If you think, "Well, we can't be innovative because we don't have enough budget," that's a mindset. The budget you have is the budget you have. And the situation needs to be resolved through innovation—a problem, a challenge, an opportunity. It needs to be resolved.

So here's what I suggest you do with your team, when, if that's your situation, when you're faced with that situation, you say, "Okay, look, here's what we need to do. We need to be innovative, we need to solve this situation, and here's our budget." Now, your team may come back to you and say, "Well, that's, that's insane. We can't do it for that, that's not enough budget." And you say to them, "You know what? You're probably right. That is unreasonable, it's unrealistic, it might even be impossible. But, if we could do it for this, how would we do it? If we could do it for this, how could we do it?"

If you've got an innovative team, if you've cultivated that innovative team, and we can talk more about how to do that, but if you've cultivated that innovative team that's like catnip to them.

"If we could do it, how would we do it?" You might even say something like, "Yeah, you know, you're right. That's, that's not enough budget, that's, that's unreasonable. But, given that we are smart, talented, and innovative, if we could do it for that, how would we do it?"

And then let them go to work and you go to work with them. Because that's a great puzzle that innovative people can sink their teeth into.

Do you see the mindset shift now? All of a sudden now they're not bemoaning the budget.

Oh, sure, some of that will still, you know, they'll be remnants of that, but now they've got a puzzle to solve. Now they've got a problem to figure out. And innovative people thrive on that.

That, that's why I said innovation thrives on limitations. Because the limitation creates a puzzle.

Like you have, it's like if you go into one of those mystery rooms or whatever it is—escape rooms. And you don't have quite all the information you need. That's what makes it intriguing. If you went into one of those, one of those escape rooms that just and here were the instructions: Well, the key is over here ,and then you turn it like this, and then here's the combination—where's the fun in that? The fun is in trying to figure out the, figure out the challenge, figure out the puzzle.

That's what innovative people thrive on. And having slightly less budget than you need and slightly less time than you need, that's part of the puzzle.

So adapt that mindset. "Yeah, you're probably right—it's not enough budget. But if we could do it for that, how would we do it?" You'll be amazed at what comes out of that question and what comes out of those conversations.

I'm Bill Stainton. I'll be here next time with more ideas of how you can Turn Creativity into Money™.

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About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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