Innovation isn’t just about the latest tech gadget or newest car. Innovation happens at VA every day – when employees find new solutions to challenges, big and small. That’s why being innovative is a core characteristic of all VA employees and part of the I CARE approach. Being innovative is also a career skill that will help you in your job today and in the future. Learning how to be innovative helps you to be more effective and satisfied at work.

Like any skill, you can practice being innovative and get better at it over time. Here are four things you can do today to become a better innovator.

1. Try someting new

Doing things that you don’t normally do is exercise for your brain and helps you see connections between ideas, which is important for innovative thinking. Have lunch with a teammate who works in a different area than you. You might be surprised, for example, that hearing someone talk about a new project in the IT department can give you ideas for solving a scheduling issue for your own team. If you are looking for ways to meet new people, try these networking tips.

2. Ask “Why?”

We’ve all been there before: stuck in a rut, where new ideas seem few and far between. Breaking free of a mental block starts with asking questions. The simplest way to start is by asking “why?” It helps you challenge accepted ways of thinking, so you see if there’s a better way to do things. Here are a few good “why” questions to get you started:

  • Why do we do it this way?
  • Why haven’t we tried that?
  • Why couldn’t we change this?

3. Take a course

Add a TMS course, like “Leadership Essentials: Leading Innovation,” to your IDP. Innovation is a skill that you will use in every job you have, so it’s worth investing some time to learn more. You can also find and download inspiring reads, like Managing Innovation, Design and Creativity, on Books24x7.

4. Learn from other innovators

The VA Center for Innovation was created to encourage new ideas and solutions that help Veterans. Follow @VAInnovation on Twitter to stay up to date on projects and competitions, including opportunities for VA employees to participate in the innovation process.

Learn more about innovation and other I CARE characteristics. Did you find this article helpful? Sign up for the MyCareer@VA Monthly Update so you don’t miss the next post.

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Published on Jun. 3, 2015

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