If you’re an innovation leader, I recommend assessing your team or even your personal life to see if you’re taking a blueprint or a blue-sky approach.

Today I wanted to share something with you I’ve been thinking about for a while. This concept started taking shape in March last year. A lot of us had to make big changes and adjust our lives in response to the coronavirus. One thing I noticed then was the mindset my family, friends, and clients were taking around change and innovation. As I looked at people’s different approaches, the concept of blueprint versus blue-sky jumped out at me.

When the pandemic was forcing businesses to change, some of our clients took a blueprint innovation mindset. They were hurrying to fix things according to the way they already did them – just adapting a little bit to survive. On the opposite end of the spectrum were those with a blue-sky innovation mindset. They were saying “This is an opportunity to blow everything up and re-imagine it.” They’d decided the blueprint they had wasn’t going to work going forward. They were going to rethink everything.

I saw a lot of blue-sky thinking with clients we worked with, and even with the research Digital FastForward did for our project “Designing the Future of Work.” We interviewed and analyzed 40+ different companies to look at how they approached innovation and redesigning their customer and employee processes. Lots of them, again, took that blueprint approach where they just tinkered around the edges of what they’d already had in the past. But there were others who went blue-sky. One of the banks we interviewed used the pandemic as an opportunity to completely reimagine the in-branch experience. They ended up with an experience where customers came in over video, which gave the bank an option to answer more customer questions and provide a higher level of service. It was amazing.

If you’re an innovation leader or an aspiring innovation leader, I recommend assessing your team or even your personal life to see if you’re taking a blueprint or a blue-sky approach.

1. On a scale of 1-10, how much risk am I taking with new ideas? 10 would be reckless, something with the potential to ruin your organization or your life. 1 means you’re doing things the same way you’ve always done them.

2. On a scale of 1-10, how confident am I about dreaming up and executing new ideas? Give yourself a 1 if you aren’t confident at all. Give yourself a 10 if you feel like all your ideas will be amazing, everyone will buy into them, and you’ll be able to execute them and get the results you want.

3. Who are my innovation role models and how disruptive are they on a scale from 1-10? 10 would be a disruptive innovator, someone like Steve Jobs or even Elon Musk. If innovators, to you, are people that deliver a big impact but move more slowly and cautiously, you might pick someone at the other end of the spectrum – like Martha Stewart.

One of my innovation role models is Russell Westbrook. I love Russell Westbrook because he has a blue-sky mindset. He’s constantly coming up with new ideas and he’s not afraid to push his boundaries. If you have a minute, take a look at this ad he did for Mountain Dew.

I love this video because he talks about “don’t do they”. He’s saying you don’t have to follow the blueprint everybody else says is going to lead to success. He’s saying to be willing to break out, especially with your ideas, and have a blue-sky innovation mindset.

That’s my encouragement for you today: think blue-sky. That’s the mindset you need to drive and deliver consistent breakthrough innovation.

Thanks for reading. And always feel free to reach out if you have a question about innovation leadership or if you’re interested in joining the Innovation eXcelerator Coaching Program, our cohort coaching program for innovation leaders.