Your innovation ‘ears’: tips for making the most of your most powerful tools for innovation and creativity 
  • Posted 4 years ago

By Andy Green (SERIOUS Creative Director)

Do you know what the most important part of your body for innovation and creativity is? You will most likely say the brain. You will most likely say the brain. But I would suggest it is your ears.

I use the word ears in plural because they are not just there to pick up sounds. Rather, I would suggest they are your most important innovation tool for being sensitive to picking up cues, leads, feedback for new opportunities and nurturing ideas from your environment. Also, your ears are crucial in listening to the talk, the conversation that goes on inside your head. In my book ‘Effective Personal Communication Skills for Public Relations’ I argue the most powerful voice you have no one can hear. It is the voice in your head. This voice is not a sign of delusional behaviour. We all have it. It is the voice that drives what you do- and more importantly what you don’t do – and will determine and shape your future success in life. Your intra-personal skills, driven by your ears, are the foundations for your inter-personal skills. Your ‘innovation ear’ – gives you the ability to listen to your world and yourself – to generate new ideas, ways of doing, and spot opportunities around them.

The image of a lonely creative, sitting in their cave or ivory tower waiting for insight and inspiration to happen is a myth. The outstanding innovator and creative is very much drawing upon the world around them, picking up bits of ideas, or even whole concepts, and applying them in new context and situations. The outstanding innovator and creative is also picking up on the voice in their head, the voice that might be saying conform with the others, give in, don’t push the boundaries any further. Rather than meekly submitting, the outstanding innovator and creative harnesses flexible thinking, enters into a dialogue, challenges, reframes, redefines the voice to support their different way of doing. Here are five tips for managing your ‘Innovation Ear’:

  1. Practice active listening ; have the underpinning belief that there are opportunities within 12ft of you, and you can spot them by exercising your sagacity.
  2. Be an unlimited listener. Recognise the validity of other sources of information Respect any part of the noise of your environment as potential sources of inspiration and new ideas. Put yourself in new, different environments and situations to extend the reach of your listening.
  3. Reign in your ego, counter your self-talk, and be prepared to change your worldview, point of view, opinion and knowledge from any new data you are encountering.
  4. Re-affirm your listening – and again bring your self-talk to attention, by equipping yourself with a belief when embracing a new encounter: “There must be some new insight, experience, lesson to be gained from this.”

Ironically, even though I might be ranked as an innovation expert my own ears sometimes require a hearing aid to boost their performance as receptors of auditory sounds. In the same way as using a hearing aid, by using these five key guiding principles I keep my innovation ears sharp and alert. Now there must be something I can learn from this article. Can I harness and incorporate anything from this in what I do. Even if I disagree with the author, or have in the past there is something I can take away from this. There must be some new insight, experience, lesson to be gained from this. Are you… listening?

(Photo: Markus Spiske / / CC-BY)