Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

The Critical Skill You Didn't Know You Need to Succeed

You’ve heard it before: To succeed in today’s business world, companies have to be innovative. You’ve probably also heard that the leaders of those companies have to be innovative, too.

But, unless you’re sitting in the C-suite or working for a notoriously innovative company like Apple or Google, you probably underestimate how important this quality is for your individual success.

Think again.

The ability to innovate—to apply creativity to conceive something new or solve a customer need—is a skill that every single one of us should cultivate in ourselves. Read on to learn just a few of the ways that being innovative is critical to your success, and small ways to develop it along the way (no matter what you do).

Being Innovative Will Make You More Hirable

Like leadership, collaboration, or ownership, having a reputation for being innovative is one of the soft skills that employers are increasingly vetting potential employees (like you!) for.

Why? More and more companies are realizing that one of the biggest keys to organizational innovation is the people they hire—at all levels. Larger companies like Marriott International or Comcast need innovative people to help them stay competitive in the changing market; startups like HomeAway or Venmo need innovative people to help them grow big ideas, fast.

“Innovation brings creativity and business value together, so if you are in a role where you are solving business problems [editor’s note: that’s arguably almost any role], then innovation skills are critical. As the world gets more competitive, the leaders who are able to lead teams to think outside the box and create compelling and industry-leading solutions will win in the marketplace,” shares Jennifer Hsieh, the VP of Insight, Strategy, and Innovation at Marriott International.

Being Innovative Will Help You Keep Your Job

“One of the secrets of people who are really successful at fast-growing companies is how rapidly they’re able to adapt to the chaos and uncertainty of adding new people. They become adept at redefining their jobs on a regular basis.” This is the advice that Molly Graham, COO of Quip and a past employee on growing teams at Google and Facebook, shared in First Round Review.

In other words, it’s not just about being able to innovate at your job—it’s about being able to innovate what your job is; rolling with the punches as organizations change and constantly finding new ways you can provide value.

Even at more established companies that aren’t growing at a breakneck pace, this is a valuable asset. As Mark Lukens shares, by snagging up “that’s not my job” tasks and turning them into your job, you can quickly become indispensible to a company and poise yourself to lead up the next big thing. And companies are not quick to let go people like that.

Being Innovative Will Help You Grow Into a Leader

As we said above, innovation isn’t just a skill for leaders. But it is a skill that turns people into leaders.

“Over time, many people who are successful in the ‘corporate’ world got there because they’ve mastered analytical, operational, and executional skills… As you build confidence [with innovation], it changes the way you approach and solve problems, think outside the box, and lead teams,” says Hsieh.

Kick Start Your Innovation With a Job at Marriott International!

How to Get It—and Show It

So, how do you start becoming more inventive in your day-to-day work, and then show the skill off to your current and future employer?

As Warby Parker founder Neil Blumenthal explains, innovation is a muscle—one that we all have and one that can be strengthened over time. Entrepreneur and innovation expert Annabel Acton shares four easy ways you can start thinking more creatively at work, no matter what you do, here, and this article describes how the most successful people of our time make innovation part of their everyday routines.

Beyond that, regularly look for ways to get out of your comfort zone at work. Is there something that needs to be done within your organization that nobody else seems to be willing to own? A project outside of your department that you’re curious about and can ask to help with? An idea you can bring to the table and offer to lead the charge on? Take some risks, follow a few crazy opportunities, and stay open to doing things a little differently. Doing so from time to time will help keep you brain primed for more innovation.

Finally, when you’re applying to jobs at companies that you feel value this attribute, focus on ways to show that you are of the innovative ilk. Talk about a time you took initiative and brought a new idea to the table (no matter how small) or invented something new. Talk about a time you failed, showing that you’re not afraid to take calculated risks to move the business forward. Talk about the online class you took or your varied hobbies to show that you have curiosity and a passion for learning.

And remember, innovation isn’t just a skill that’ll benefit you at work—it can make you think differently about almost anything. “[Innovation] is a mindset and creative process that can be applied dynamically throughout your entire life,” shares Chris Baer, Senior Director of Insight, Strategy, and Innovation at Marriott International. “It makes us humble, forces an open mind, makes us more imaginative and embracing of new intersections, possibilities, and thinking—and ultimately more courageous with our ideas,” adds his colleague, Matthew Von Ertfelda, VP and Team Lead of the Insight, Strategy, and Innovation team.

Tell us the ways you’ll work on becoming more innovative this week on Twitter with #MarriottInnovates, or keep an eye out for more great content on innovation from Marriott and The Muse)!

Photo of woman with paper airplane courtesy of Shutterstock.

A logo with "the muse" in white text.