With technology transforming work faster than any time in human history, we are frequently asked how to plan a successful career. The accelerating rate of technological change has already transformed industries from manufacturing to movies.
How long will it be before artificial intelligence does your thinking better than you can or self-serve gives customers a level of personalized experience you could never replicate even on your best day?
According to extensive research conducted by Price Waterhouse, 93% of the CEOs surveyed say technology will significantly or completely transform their industry.
What does that mean for you?
How do you make yourself invaluable in a world like that?
We frequently hear from senior leaders that they struggle to find people with the ability to innovate in their day-to-day work. As technology advances, if you want to stand out, get noticed, and be an invaluable member of the team, become a micro-innovator in your own domain.
77% of the CEOs say they struggle to find the creativity and innovation they need.
Here are 3 ways to stand out as a micro-innovator:
1. Practice 360-degree empathy
Computers may be able to “think” but we’ve never met one who can feel. Here’s your edge. Empathy can’t be outsourced to computers. Pay close attention to the frustration points around you, up, down and sideways.
What’s ticking off or delighting your customers? What frustrates or energizes your team? What’s freaking out or motivating your boss? Why are your peers so demoralized?
Once you’ve identified the pain points or motivators, look for little ways to make life better for your customers, your colleagues, or your boss. What process can you improve? What problem can you solve?
2. Ask how can we?
Once you’ve identified your solutions sweet spot, reframe the issue by asking “how can we” questions. “How can we?” is a fantastic problem-solving question that will make you stand out from the crowd.
We know you’re familiar with some of the big innovations that have come from “how can we” questions. Imagine the conversation that led to these two game-changing companies.
“How can we build a transportation company with no fleet” – Uber
“How can we offer lodging with no real estate” Airbnb
It can work for your team too.
“How can we stay true to the reason behind this policy, while reducing customer frustration?”
“How can we keep employees challenged and engaged in this flat organization where promotions are limited?
“How can we develop our team with limited resources?
3. Speak to be heard: The V.O.I.C.E. approach
You’ve identified the pain points, and come up with some potential solutions. Now it’s time to position your ideas. We often see employees with great ideas get overlooked because they’re not presenting them well. You want to speak so you can be heard. The VOICE model will help you present your ideas in a way that builds your credibility and makes it more likely that the best ideas are adopted.
V – Visualize
Visualize what you are going to say and how you’re going to say it. Who are you looking to influence with your idea? What do you want this person to think, feel or do, as result of your presentation?
O – Organize
Organize your thoughts in advance. Identify the top three points you must make no matter what. Identifying your top three messages will keep you focused and help you avoid that horrible feeling as you walk out the door, “ah, shoot, I forgot to tell them….” Choose an opening line that makes everyone put down their phone and pay attention. Eg “In the next three months we have an opportunity to improve margins by 10%.”
I – Inquire
Now think about your stakeholders and do your homework Who cares most about this subject and why? Who’s most likely to be skeptical and why? Learn as much as you can about any potential naysayers.
C – Consider
Listen carefully to the opinions and ideas of others. Thank them and respond appropriately, building on and integrating their ideas if possible. If you know the objections, it can be helpful if you’re the one who brings them up first. “Now you may be thinking ______ (insert objection here) and then address it.
E – Energize
Stay energetic in your delivery. It’s hard to ignore someone is genuinely passionate about their point of view, but be sure to keep your emotions balanced. Bring an energetic confidence to your position, while building a story that will excite others to join you.
The automation revolution is just getting started, but you don’t need to become a machine to compete. Your best competitive advantage is your humanity. Your ability to empathize, creatively problem solve, and positively influence your customers, colleagues, and supervisors gives you the edge you need to thrive as the world changes.
Karin Hurt and David Dye help leaders achieve breakthrough results without losing their soul. They are keynote leadership speakers, trainers, and the award-winning authors of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul. Karin is a top leadership consultant and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive, elected official, and president of Let’s Grow Leaders, their leadership training and consulting firm.