This article was originally published by Grow Magazine
One of the most crucial elements of good design is innovation, but it can be challenging to fully embrace it into corporate culture. This is where innovation psychologist Dr Amantha Imber’s expertise comes in.
Imber is most passionate about the topics of innovation and productivity, and how these are key to designing innovation into our day. The way we approach our daily activities has a significant impact on our productivity, which in turn feeds into our capacity to be motivated and inspired, to achieve and strive for more.
According to Imber, many of us suffer from our own limitations – we allow ourselves to be stressed by particularly challenging situations, when we don’t feel we have the necessary skills or resources to complete them. Conversely, when a project on which we’re working isn’t challenging enough, we allow boredom to sabotage our capacity to be productive.
Research has shown that we spend more than 50 percent of our working lives in one or both of these two states. Imber’s belief is that there is a sweet spot somewhere in between them, where innovation can truly come to life; the key to finding it lies in personal creativity.
Although it is often thought that people either ‘are creative’ or they are not, scientific studies have found that all of us have an innate creativity, but some of us are more likely to access it than others. Imber’s theory is that to become a better innovator we simply need to unlock our creativity through finding challenges. In her TEDx talk earlier this year, she broke this concept down. “When we feel challenged, we are 67 percent more likely to be innovative. But it’s not just about finding any old challenge, we need to seek out that challenge that is just right for us.” Without the right skills, a difficult challenge becomes stressful and without the right challenge, a simple task becomes boring.
Innovation performance is dependent on finding that sweet spot – the place where we feel excited and interested in the challenge, but also have enough skills and resources to achieve what is needed. It’s in here that we can not only rise to the challenge, but also find motivation to generate new ideas, ways of doing things and alternative solutions we may not have previously considered. In these instances, we achieve greater skill development, because we are put in a situation where we can push ourselves to do more.
Since starting her company Inventium in 2007, Imber and her team have helped dozens of companies and countless individuals access their creativity and take more innovative approaches in their life. “I left advertising because, while I found the work interesting intellectually, I found it a poor fit ethically,” explains Imber. “Inventium combined my passions for creativity and science, using the latest findings from psychology, neuroscience and management science. So now we are able to really focus on how individuals and managers can become better innovators.”
The challenge in the corporate environment of course is harnessing individual and personal creativity in ways that can benefit the company as a whole and vice versa. The obvious question therefore is whether corporate innovation comes from the top down or the employees up? “It has to start with the top down, otherwise it is just a scattergun approach to innovation, if the leaders are not supporting it,” explains Imber. “But bottom up innovation is essential too – making sure employees know how they can contribute to their company’s efforts in driving innovation.”
One of the strategies Imber has utilised to be more innovative in her own life has been to diversify her career choices. By building her passions within the framework of her own intellectual, creative and ethical needs, she has been able to create an innovative work experience for herself. This in turn has become the foundation for her work – helping others to do the same.
One example of this is her highly rated podcast How I Work. Imber started the podcast as a way to disseminate great ideas and strategies from high-profile entrepreneurs among a wider audience. Something many of Imber’s podcast guests have in common is a focused approach, which she was fascinated to learn more about as she did more and more interviews. “Most of us go through the day in a haphazard or reactive way,” she explains. “Everyone I’ve spoken to on the podcast so far thinks very deliberately and thoughtfully about their actions and the structure of their day.”
A lot of what Imber does to spread ideas through Inventium involves public speaking, writing articles and books, and consulting. “Podcasting gives me an immediate opportunity to talk to amazing guests and learn how they harness their creativity to stay productive and continue to innovate.”