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How to Tell Whether You’re Innovating or Just Wasting Time

Are you innovating or wasting your time? It’s an uncomfortable question that more people in business need to ask themselves.

While these two things aren’t mutually exclusive, oftentimes people in business feel like they are doing the first while they are actually mired in the second and don’t even realize it.

So how do you tell the difference between innovating and simply spinning your wheels? There’s no easy answer, but there are a few ways you can make a solid determination.

Does your brainstorming lead to any results?

If you talk to 10 different people in business they will give you 10 different ways that they think brainstorming should be conducted. Regardless of HOW you conduct brainstorming, there’s only one effective way to measure it: the results. If your brainstorming sessions lead to nothing a week or a month down the road, change the way you are doing them or scrap them altogether and start over. If you are not getting results, you are wasting time.

Have an unbiased group give you feedback

If you don’t have an advisory group outside your company that you can lean on for unbiased advice, what are you waiting for? The kind of ideas and feedback you can get from trusted colleagues and friends is incredible because they aren’t stuck in your business every day. Explain to them how your company has been innovating, and see how they react. You’ll get a much better view on what you’re really doing differently from the competition, versus what’s just hot air.

Get beta users or real customers as soon as possible

So many startups dive so deeply into a business or product idea early on, that they can’t pivot when they realize their potential customers actually want something else. Oftentimes it’s too late to make a change. So how do you overcome this? Get the darn product in the hands of the people you want to use it as quickly as possible. Listen to their feedback and innovate based on stated desires – not guesses.

Set realistic goals

How are you going to innovate if you don’t have specific goals in mind? Here’s a hint: You aren’t going to at all. If you don’t have actual goals and benchmarks to reach, you are – by definition – wasting your time. Review your goals regularly and be honest with yourself about where you stand.

Focus on what actually needs to change, not what you THINK needs to change

How do you tell the difference between the two? Ask your team that question and give them the trust and leeway to do their jobs and give you a straight answer. Look at the sort of people and companies that you consider to be innovative. They all have a team they trust to do their jobs. That’s how they can focus on what needs to change – and that’s how you truly innovate.

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