Innovation has been a buzz word for a while now – and it’s one of those hurdles you must surmount if you’re looking for a job. Employers want creative employees. Investors want to put their money behind creative people.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers found that employers overwhelmingly look for problem solving skills as a top priority in their new hires. A famous 2010 global survey by IBM revealed that CEOs worldwide rank creativity as a more essential skill than dedication, ability to manage, integrity or vision for the leaders of tomorrow. Studies show that when investing in creativity makes a company stronger than any other initiative it can do. A recent article at Fast Company urges leaders to hire creative people – even for jobs that don’t typically involve creativity.
What makes creativity so important is that it’s not about having ideas pop out of nowhere – it’s about problem solving. Leaders want to get behind people who can throw themselves into creating solutions. They don’t want to hear “it can’t be done” when someone hasn’t even tried.
The problem with creativity is that it is really hard to prove to others that you’re creative. Sure, you could show up in a crazy outfit, send your resume in a pizza box or cover it in glitter – but will that really make others take you seriously? Nor do any standard tests have a score for creativity. And even if you have amazingly creative ideas to share, not everyone agrees what is a creative idea. Something that might be a revelation to one person, could resemble something another person has seen many times before.
So what do you do? Show people you’re innovative by talking about how you’re a persistent problem solver!
Innovation isn’t about having one-hit wonder ideas. It’s about being able to come up with solutions to problems, and having the mental flexibility to keep coming up with new solutions if needed. Inventor Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Creative people are not those who are stopped by problems that arise. That’s why gaming is such an excellent way to train your brain to be innovative: gamers are constantly failing as they work their way to the next levels. Gamers fail fast and fail often, but they also have many small successes that teach them that persistence is the key to success.
So if you’re looking to convince someone that you’re an innovative person, spend your time talking about how you faced a difficult challenge and how you approached solving it. Tell them the ideas you had that didn’t work, talk about what you learned from each failure, and then talk about how you persisted until you had that great idea that clicked.