6 Tips for Innovating like Apple, IDEO, and Behance

Today’s post was written by Jeff Goins. Jeff is a gifted writer, creative, and innovator. He has worked at Adventures in Missions for 4 years. Jeff has a great love for the art of innovation. I’m excited for you to read his thoughts below…

Innovate like Apple, IDEO, and BehanceI recently changed jobs. For the past four years, i was working in our organization’s marketing department. But I always had a secret love affair with ideas. I loved innovation. The prospect of constantly doing new things each and every day and bringing meaningful change to the work that we were doing was, well, seductive to me.

So, when I finally got the opportunity to rewrite my job description, I made sure that innovation was at the heart of what I did. Since then, I’ve been studying what some of the most innovative companies in the world do, and I’ve learned a few things about the process.

As I’ve been learning this stuff, I’ve come to the conclusion that these ideas are so basic and so universal that any organization could adopt them to make their organization more innovative.

Here are six tips about innovation and creativity that I’ve learned from organizations like IDEO, Apple, and Behance.

1) Make room – You innovate by making room in your organization for mistakes to happen, for forward-thinking experimenters to test out ideas. The best example I’ve ever seen of this is how IDEO structures their organization and office. They literally have an airplane wing sticking out the side of one of their walls, just because they thought that it would be fun. (Can you argue with them?)

2) Get organized – Creativity needs rails. Innovation requires some guidelines in order for you to make a difference. Scott Belsky, founder of Behance (a network of creative freelancers) studied some of the most creative leaders in the world and found a common denominator: not their creativity, but their organization.

Belsky distilled their best practices into a simple, creative-friendly system called the Action Method (which is what I use to get things done). It’s simple and is based on the premise that ideas are no good if they aren’t realized.

3) Use your eyes – Innovation begins with vision. Steve Jobs is renowned for seeing what others can’t see. His competitive edge rests on his ability to look years into the future and infuse it into today’s products.

While you may not be able to be Steve Jobs, you can start using your eyes more. The folks at IDEO believe in observing ordinary people in everyday situations to test their products and solve problems — more than doing controlled experiments and focus studies.

In addition to people, watch products. The world’s leading innovators aren’t creators; they’re copiers. They observe functions of useful products or services and cross-pollinate them with others.

4) Ship and tweak often – The best ideas happen in spurts, and the best innovation happens in iterations. Just look at how often Apple releases a new product. You’ll usually see them ship something new every three months (whether it be a new operating system or an updated iPod).

They keep their products fairly simple, get the quality to “good enough” and ship it. Then, they troubleshoot, tweak, and ship the next version. If you’re going to be innovative, you have to get over your fears and be comfortable with the world seeing your less-than-perfect product.

The whole goal of innovation is this: Fail fast. Read that again. If you don’t get anything out of this article but that one idea, then you didn’t waste your time reading it. You must ship; you must fail your way to success. And if you’re going to stand against your competitors, you’re going to have to do it quickly.

5) Anticipate problems – Tom Kelley says the great innovators “expect the unexpected.” They see problems (and solutions) before they’re needed. If you’re paying attention, you can do the same.

6) Include outsiders – This is another IDEO method. They intentionally build eclectic teams and invite feedback from strangers. Involving people from a wide range of skill sets and experiences allows you to ask better questions. Get people outside of your industry involved so that they can poke holes in your ideas and come up with better solutions.

So what are you waiting for?


Recommended reading:


  • Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky
  • Purple Cow by Seth Godin
  • Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney
  • The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley



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15 Responses to 6 Tips for Innovating like Apple, IDEO, and Behance

  1. Jeff Goins March 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    Thanks for posting this, Kenny. You’re an uber-innovator in my book. I’m trying to keep up.

  2. @kylereed March 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    money 🙂

    I love these ideas.
    I think all of these ideas are well worth their weight in gold.

    I think the biggest one for me is number 2, need to get better organized and able to keep goals in front of me.

    • Jeff Goins March 23, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

      Yeah, me, too. Making Ideas Happen is great. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Have you read it?

      • @kylereed March 23, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

        I have, and have not made any ideas happen 🙂

        • Kenny Silva March 23, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

          Whats been stopping you, Kyle?

          • @kylereed March 23, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

            Distractions and allurement

          • Kenny Silva March 23, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

            Distractions are tough. It’s so easy to get flooded with a barrage of “good” ideas or projects. It takes discipline for us to say no to the good in order to afford ourselves the margin to say yes to the “great” ideas.

        • Jeff Goins March 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

          Uh-oh. I’m telling Belsky… :-/ However, I don’t really buy that, dude. You’re making ideas happen all the time. They may not be the ones you would like to make happen (you might call those your “dreams”), but you’re creating all the time. Celebrate small victories.

          • @kylereed March 23, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

            true. I think the biggest thing for me is that I get distracted to easily or start up things that I never follow through on that I know I need to.

          • Jeff Goins March 23, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

            yeah, it’s the creative’s curse. you need a team.

          • Kenny Silva March 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

            Yea its very easy to get stretched thin. We’re idea guys, so we love to create and start things. Speaking for myself, however, I’m more of an idea guy than a sustainer. For me, it takes a lot of intentional effort to water the seed after its been planted and see it through to the end.

          • Jeff Goins March 23, 2011 at 7:06 pm #


  3. Justin Davis March 23, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    Excellent stuff. I love the fact that you bring out some of IDEO’s methods. They are – undoubtedly – one of the most consistently innovative companies out there. Reading their case studies is like walking through a candy store of ideas.

    Thanks for mentioning failing fast and shipping often. As a creator and innovator, you’ve got to *make* a lot of things. Sketching through ideas and prototyping things on a very regular basis is the key to how this process works. There are few truly innovative geniuses out there – most innovation and interesting design work comes from an intentional design *process*, which starts with a commitment to trying stuff out, and a focus on synthesis (the creation of a lot of ideas quickly, not just refining a singular attempt).

    Don’t just think about ideas – make them!

    Great post Jeff, thanks!

    • Jeff Goins March 23, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

      Yep. They’re awesome. I basically just plagiarized the Art of Innovation to write this post.


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