Business & Money

July 9, 2012

4 Ways to Be More Innovative at Work


When you think of innovative people, who comes to mind? Steve Jobs? Albert Einstein? Sara Blakely, the inventor of Spanx?

How about you?

The Innate Ability to Innovate

Don’t be too quick to reject that possibility. “We’re born with an innate ability to innovate,” Dr. David Pensak, the author ofInnovation for Underdogs, told me. Using that innate ability can make you a more valuable employee at work and help you devise new products or services that could make you money as an entrepreneur.

And here’s something that might surprise you: “The older you get,” Pensak says, “the more innovative you become.”

Here’s why: “The more you have observed and experienced, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to identify truly innovative solutions to problems,” says Pensak, 64. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. Every year you’re alive, you see more pieces. That increases the likelihood that you’ll assemble them in ways no one else has thought of.”

(MORE: How to Get a Patent for Your Invention)

I’m inclined to believe him. After all, it’s hard to argue with a guy who is a Ph.D. chemist, computer scientist, owner of dozens of patents, a childhood family friend of Albert Einstein, and teacher of  “Innovention” (the process of innovation and invention) at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Pensak is on the faculties of George Washington University School of Law and the University of Delaware Business School.

He says one key to unleashing your ability to innovate is working with a mentor with the experience to guide you. (Next Avenue’s Kerry Hannon recently blogged about the importance of mentors for women.) Pensak is a big fan of finding a mentor from SCORE, the nonprofit supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, whose retired business professionals offer entrepreneurs advice for free or at a low cost.

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