The assumption that innovative and creative thinking is something we are born with is not quite correct. Of course, to a certain extent there are some traits and characteristics that are inherited and can play a role in your decision making process, but overall innovative thinking is something we can learn and train every day. Creative thinking usually starts with a problem – when facing a challenge we have two options – either to let it remain a problem and to ignore it, or to try solving it with what is in our power. The second choice is the one that triggers  innovation both in classical business models and in social enterprises. Social innovation is born in the combination of social challenge and a creative idea for solving it.

Education, research and knowledge of business basics play a crucial role in creation of a social enterprise. But of the same importance is the way the entrepreneur thinks on a daily basis as very often brilliant social innovation ideas come from common challenges we are facing every day.

Universal Class has created a list of skills that every social innovator should be aware of and train as often as possible:

Skill 1: Think outside of the box

This often heard expression is actually very important in the innovative thinking process. The problem is – we often do not know how to actually do this “outside of the box” thinking. The idea is to go beyond all existing constraints – imagine how you would solve the problem if you had unlimited resources? Try solving your problem in big steps without letting all the little practical and administrative obstacles to get in your way. Try solving only a part of your challenge, then another part. Try changing the physical environment you are in – let your body and mind experience different surroundings and new fresh ideas will come in your mind.

Skill 2: Get curious

Adults are often very concerned of what others will think of them that they abstain from asking questions and exploring just because of the fear that they will sound or look silly. In order to get new innovative ideas you need to let your mind wonder – imagine, ask questions, see different places, play like a child and creativeness will come naturally.

Skill 3: Look at life from another’s perspective

Trying to “walk in other’s shoes” is a very important tool in achieving successful social innovation.  Try to understand what is the everyday life of a person with disability? What are the challenges they have to face on a daily basis? How can you improve it? What are the problems in a less developed communities? The perspective of the people you are trying to help is crucial when generating your innovative ideas.

Skill 4: Let go of emotional attachments

Brainstorming and exchanging the views is of great importance when looking for innovative ideas. Sometimes people are so attached to their ideas that they can lose the possibility for reaching the most productive and effective result. Listening to others and critically evaluating both your own and others arguments can lead to the best social innovation.

Skill 5: Learn to fail

In order to be innovative, you need to go the unknown path, to explore and experiment. In this creative way the possibility of  failure is very high. Many successful products and services have emerged from several failures – only after realizing their week spots they grow strong and successful. This can be seen both within regular businesses and social enterprises.

Skill 6: Get uncomfortable with comfortable

Social innovation is based on a certain social challenge. The entrepreneur should always seek for new and new ways how to improve the situation in this field, how to come up with improvements for both the business and the society.  Comfort zone is not the place where great innovations are born. “It is when we are sitting on the cactus that we get the initiation to jump.”

Skill 7: Wake up your senses

Experiencing different cultures, different places, tastes and sights is the best way to open your mind for new innovative ideas. Looking how social problems are tackled in other countries, exchanging experiences with people form completely different backgrounds gives your mind the spark that leads to new innovative solutions.

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