Thursday, November 20, 2014

Break the rules, break the routines - 5 keys to being innovative

I took a break from my daily routine and headed to Slush. Not the wet snow you might find on the streets of Helsinki this time of the year, but the hottest IT start-up event in the Nordics. Though slightly off-topic on this blog (will get on-topic soon), I truly can recommend attending Slush if you are an IT innovator or investor anywhere in the world - these guys really know how to make a cool event!

Together with over 10.000 people I roamed, what I would describe, a super-sized nightclub meets science lab for two days. Four mesmerizing stages packed with key notes & seminars, a hundred+ cool stands and quite a few free macchiatos later, a person does get a little worn down with the same innovation BS. A lot of smoke and mirrors... literally. (Which they need for the 1000000 lazer beams that criss-cross the ceilings.) Nonetheless, weary or not, you always end up picking up something new and interesting, meet lots of people you'd normally never get around to see and get some valuable practice on your elevator pitches (and notice how much you're in need of that practice).

On the second morning of Slush, the United States Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck - known in Finland not only for his position in the US Embassy and local politics, but also from his charismatic appearances around the country ranging from TV cooking shows to displaying his well-shaped biceps (a life-long body builder) - stepped up to start off the day two of the event. I was definitely expecting something to wake me up. Though the crowd was clearly tired & hungover (myself luckily only the former) from the party the night before, and though the points he covered while on stage were no rocket science, his talk served as a good reminder on an important topic; how to be more innovative.

If Slush has one thing slightly in tangent to this blog, it's innovation and that particular speech. So I'm not totally off in writing about this. Below are Bruce Oreck's 5 practices to being innovative:

1. Live life on your own terms
Living life adhering to someone else's expectations doesn't make sense. Wear what you want to wear. Eat what you want to eat. Do what you want to do.

2. Never hear "no"
Don't be deterred by all the no's you may hear, don't let that stop you for doing what you really want to do. When somebody says "no" you need to hear "not yet".

3. Get out of your comfort zone
The oldest rule in the book: Let go of the things you cannot control. Relax - nothing is under control. Learn to make peace with the unknown.

4. Break the rules
Breaking the rules doesn't mean breaking the law, by the way. But don't let all the trivial rules inhibit you. Nobody ever achieved anything great by doing things exactly like it has been done before. "The man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd."

5. Be unstoppable
There's a slogan among bodybuilders: "I don't stop when I'm tired I stop when I'm done". To "get done" you need to be unstoppable. There's plenty of time to rest in the grave, now is the time to act.

Like I mentioned, all this shouldn't be a total newsflash to anyone working with something innovative. These are the mantras creative people live by - but there's no sense to "reinvent the wheel" so it's good to repeat these practices every now and then!

If you're feeling overwhelmed or even pressured to be innovative - something I can relate to - remember that a person doesn't need to follow these practices 24/7. I would personally get exhausted by breaking the rules, venturing on the far side of my comfort zone and being unstoppable, take-no-for-an-answer type of person all day, every day, for the rest of my life. But I guess that's not the point either. There's a certain balance you need to find, and stay on the better side of the gray line between being stressed and being innovative. And just the right amount of rule-breaking can be the thing to boost you innovative brain cells!

Tired and yet strangely refreshed I got home at the end of the day and wrote to myself this little mantra: Routine keeps me grounded - breaking it makes me soar.

I remember still very well how I felt pretty much every day on my around the world trip - living (note: living - not just taking small steps) outside my comfort zone and constantly setting and reinventing my own rules. It was an unforgettable experience. But after 200 days of almost no sight of my comfort zone, 200 days of being an unstoppable "master of her own life", I realised how vital a simple life routine is for me. I longed for it with every cell of my body. I couldn't wait to sit back behind my old office desk, not having to figure out a hundred new things every day. I'm the kind of person that needs to be able to set anchor and ground myself every now and then in order to once again soar on top of the clouds.

During these two days at Slush, and like at all the dance events I attend to, I loved doing something off my routine, outside my little circle of comfort and it was just the boost I was looking for. And then again, I loved getting back to my oh-so comfortable routine, relaxing at home with my hot chocolate after the two very hectic days.

I wouldn't say my mantra is for everyone. What works for me doesn't necessarily work for you, and vice versa. But if it helps you, feel free to use it!

Share your thoughts

What's your mantra?
When was the last time you were unstoppable?
How do you work with being innovative?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below or on Dance the World Facebook page!


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