The world around us is changing each day and our relevance is at risk unless we change with it.   Success over the lifetime of your career depends on your ability to detect the subtle dynamics that shape a business.  Megatrends have the potential to make you irrelevant or less valuable.  The key to remaining successful in your personal life and career is innovation.

Personal innovation is the ability to learn, adapt, and strengthen existing or grow completely new competencies.  Dynamically reconfiguring these competencies given the challenge at hand will decide who succeeds and who does not.  Globalization due to the rapidly changing technology environment has the ability to instantly source talent and ideas from all parts of the world.  Your knowledge is the product others want so investing in and innovating your product is what is needed each day.  My daily reminder is the “Brainy Smurf” that my kids bought me a few years back that sits on my desk.  As I prepare for each day, it is an opportunity to think about what I will learn today.  It is a mindset for every meeting or discussion I have.

Here are a few simple ideas to help you incorporate learning and innovation into your work week:

  1. Take a timeout to understand where you are. Most of us operate in the “daily machine” with email overload and extensive demands on our time.  Take a day off specifically to take stock of where you are in your life and career.  It is when we get out of our daily routine that we have an opportunity to evaluate our success and how we must innovate to get back on track.
  2. Plan learning activities in your calendar.  New learning will likely not happen unless you plan time in your busy schedule.  It may be a book you have been wanting to read, attending a conference to learn cutting-edge technology or advice from a mentor.  I use a color-coded category in Outlook to tag my learning activities.
  3. Evaluate the external environment and strategic forces that shape your domain.  Your ability to stay relevant is based on offering a service where there is an opportunity, an unmet need, and a combination of competencies that make you’re offering something darn right special.  Businesses and people typically become irrelevant or less valuable when they don’t understand and adapt to those changing dynamics.  I liken it to conducting a Michael Porter Five Forces (see Wikipedia) analysis of your current role and line of work.  Are you a thought leader in your field?  If not, understand what makes people a thought leaders and then you have two options:  get out of the market or execute a robust development plan to close those gaps.
  4. Integrate learning into everything you do.  Optimize your time to activities that support your personal innovation process and decline meetings when you are not required.  Reconfigure that valuable time to learning.
  5. Offer to teach others something new.   We tend to learn more when we need to explain new concepts and theories to others.  Offer to teach something new you are learning to others who are interested in the same topic too!

Learning about our inner self is just as important as innovating our professional competencies.  We change over time and what worked in the past may not anymore.   That includes those relationships that are critical to our success.  Get energized this week by taking time a timeout to decide where and how you will innovate yourself for success!