Invest in the Moment: See Opportunity

by Martin Boroson

As a leader, if you want innovation, learn how to spot ideas when they are still small.

Only by being in the moment will you notice the next opportunity for innovation.

Many people believe that a visionary is someone who can see the big picture instantly. They imagine a genius who, almost magically, grasps a perfectly formed vision of the future.

But this kind of visionary ability is rare, and as a model, it is not very useful–especially if you want to promote innovation right now.

This is because a new idea rarely presents itself fully formed or with a fanfare. Rather, it usually appears first as a fragment, a faint whisper, a tender shoot. And this means it is unlikely to knock your socks off. Indeed, you might have to be very sensitive just to notice it.

Sadly, most of the time, we are in such a rush that we don’t stop to give attention to these tender shoots. Often, in our haste, we trample right over it.

If you really want to promote innovation, however, the most important thing is to stop stepping over — or stepping on — the many potentially valuable ideas that appear each day

Instead of waiting passively for a game-changing revelation, or assuming that only a genius can innovate, there is something you can do right now:  create the conditions that will enable you and your team to value new ideas when they are still small. Make sure you can notice the slender new shoot of an idea before it has grown big and strong.

In other words, develop a mindset and habits that are primed for innovation.

This means staying alert. It means observing life carefully without rushing to judgment. It means having a positive attitude toward novelty. Remember that no one can innovate by sticking to the “tried and true”: the future may look nothing like the past. And most of all, remember that almost every big idea starts small.

As a model, consider the writer who sits in a café with an open notebook, staring into space, waiting for inspiration. Consider the artist who sits with his sketchpad, doodling, until an interesting shape emerges from the chaos. Or consider the inventor tinkering in her garage until, one day, something starts to click and whirr.

These innovators have one thing in common: they know how to keep their minds open, and wait patiently for new idea to land. They also know how to wake up when something interesting is in the neighborhood. And they trust that even a small idea can have enormous potential. In short, they know how to be in the moment.

The word moment actually comes from a Latin word that means “a particle sufficient to tip the scales”–it was a very small weight that literally tipped the balance. So, right at the heart of the moment is the idea that something small can make a big difference; this presumably why the word moment gives us the word momentous. (In the final article in this series, I will also show you how investing in the moment can also help you unleash momentum.)

But for now, let’s just focus on those small moments that might prove to be revolutionary . For if you want to innovate frequently, or create the culture for innovation, you have to develop your ability to notice those tiny moments that might just tip the scales someday.

With training in meditation and mindfulness, you can learn how to bring your attention to the present moment, and then deepen your experience of this moment. This helps you see things afresh. You begin to look at life with more care and start to see things around you with more subtlety. You simply notice more.  And realize that everything is changing.

This means that you approach each moment with an attitude of expectant curiosity — the hallmark of creative people. You become more open to the possibility that this moment, right now, might reveal something slightly different than expected — something potentially very valuable.

So if you want to experience a breakthrough, it’s best to remember that it could start quite small. And as a leader, if you really want the mindset for innovation, remember that the first step might already be here, right now.

The billion dollar question is: Are you awake enough to see it?


Read the next article in this series:  Develop Possibilities

For updates follow @MartinBoroson  or  #investinthemoment

Read the introduction and all articles in this series.