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How to Innovate

A step-by-step guide to changing the game

Ann Friedman can’t wait to dig in.

Are you seeking disruptive innovation that really changes the game? Something that will activate influencers and transform the creative and digital space? Let’s start ideating! What’s that? Coming up with ideas. New ideas. The newest, freshest ideas! You’ll need a few tools: a whiteboard and Post-Its—or if you’re really feeling twee, a chalkboard. If you insist on staying digital, make it an iPad. Have some snacks (tamari almonds and cold mango slices, perhaps?) and seltzer on hand. Then gather the sharpest thinkers you know in your naturally-lit office and drape yourselves comfortably over some mid-century furniture. Get ready to really move the needle!

1. Identify a Problem
Identify a problem in the world. Don’t start small—we all know that the iPhone battery life sucks and Ikea sources its wood from endangered rainforests and nobody carpools. Think bigger! Maybe it’s that we don’t make deep human connections anymore. Or maybe it’s world hunger. Don’t restrict yourself to topics you’re knowledgeable about—the experts haven’t been able to fix this problem yet, so your renegade, outsider perspective is much-needed.

2. Ideate
Think of conceptual answers to the big problem. A new global food distribution system would totally solve world hunger. Better education would fix American democracy. Connecting more would make us all feel more connected. Put these answers on your Post-Its or whiteboard. Don’t worry about whether other folks have had these ideas before. The point is that they feel new. That’s how you know you’re onto something!

3. Assemble Your Dream Team
Break into small groups to figure out who you’ll need to turn this innovation into reality. This is your dream team, the creatives and business types and tech geniuses who will work together to activate your innovation. Don’t worry too hard about the budget—those details will derail your ability to think big and therefore your ability to change the game.

4. Build the Buzz
Instagram your whiteboard or Post-It notes. Figure out which conferences and idea summits you’ll want to attend to introduce your game-changing innovation to the wider world. Start thinking about how to describe it—analogies really help here. You need an easy formula or shorthand, because it’s time to start building buzz! If you’re already kind of bored with your innovation, don’t worry. This process is fluid, and you can always gather with likeminds to ideate all over again.