It’s that time of year when it’s easy to become overwhelmed with ideas on how to become the new you, whether it’s joining this or that course, listening to a webinar, or signing up to a fast-track programme to success. It’s also a time of year when it’s easy to mentally cocoon yourself with the knowledge and experience you already have, something that is not necessarily enough to take you or your team to the next level, especially when it comes to innovation.

There are some very basic fundamentals to innovation in marketing: an idea is not a concept; great concepts are built through continuous review and refinement; the process requires an openness to insights and points of view other than your own; and parking your ego at the door to embrace the fact there are things you do not know will put you on the right track.

But just to ensure you get your innovation drive off the ground this year, here are a few tricks to help you claim your badge as a marketing innovator.

Learn What You Need To Learn
Just like any other investment in time and money, you will need to do some research before deciding what to take further. Go on the prowl for information that will help you decide what is relevant without deciding for or against it before you begin. Browse through articles, videos, presentations, and, perhaps, that free webinar to help you make an informed choice.

If you decide not to follow up and learn more on a particular subject, do not consider this time wasted. After all, this means you did learn something when researching, and you’ve just saved yourself some valuable time by not going down a route less relevant.

Reengineer Great Concepts
We are all presented with products, services, campaigns, marketing initiatives, and businesses we recognise as great concepts. Innovation is as much about creation and construction as it is about understanding why some things work. When you encounter great concepts, do yourself the favour of deconstructing and reverse-engineering them. What are their components? How were they prepared before being created? What makes them work so well? Ask yourself questions like this. Subsequently, you’ll see what elements recur in the concepts most relevant to you and your brand. This will enable you to apply similar elements to your own innovations.

Apply A Method Of Multiple Perspectives
We all know what is likely to happen when someone recklessly creative is put together with someone overly cautious—they both put more effort into standing their ground than finding one in common. To avoid conflicts when groups with different ways of thinking and values come together, apply the principle of parallel thinking. This asks everyone to look at a concept at the same time and with a shared mindset.

Shifting focus between process, facts, feelings, creativity, benefits, and cautions is a very simple way to make certain you uncover as many aspects of a concept as possible as a group. If you are interested in learning more about this way of working, do an online search for Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

Eat Concept Development For Breakfast
Understandably, everyone builds up habits and patterns in the way they work and the experience that comes with it. Such “professional programming” has its pros and cons. It enables you to complete some things routinely and is a shortcut for everyday tasks. At the same time, however, it can foster complacency and the dreaded “that is how we do things around here” regressive mindset.

Your “professional programming” can hinder your ability to come up with ideas and refine these into concepts. But breaking away from this can be downright scary, and feeling uncomfortable and unsafe in an unfamiliar environment does not foster the next big idea. However, you can make concept development a comfortable and safe environment by finding just 15 or 30 minutes one day a week to do a quick brainstorm and make creative thinking a regular part of your “professional programming.”

I find it works particularly well in the morning, and I would recommend that you try out eating concept development for breakfast in a group, just by throwing two or three unrelated words in the air and see where it takes you. This is merely a mental workout, and not coming up with the next big idea is acceptable. You will be surprised what can come from doing this simple exercise on a regular basis when you are allowed just to have fun with it.

Break Out Of The Echo Chamber
If you surround yourself exclusively with people who mirror yourself, you will never be challenged by new perspectives and the opportunities they represent. This may be comfortable, but also unconstructive. Seek out those who challenge your own way of thinking and who present their points of view in a constructive and honest manner. You do not have to agree, but you do have to listen. Even if you strongly disagree on a point of view, you will be forced into the productive predicament of having to make a valid, well-presented counterpoint.

Do Not Absorb Article Content As Absolutes
On a final note, everything you read, see, and hear on the matter of innovation and concept development—including this article—is not to be perceived as absolute truths. In my view, they are best absorbed as insights and inspiration to enable you to build and develop your own innovation-minded mindset. There is no universal code. However, if you begin by accepting the fact that you do not know everything you need to know, you are already one step ahead.