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Innovation is inspiring. We all love a good story about someone with a big idea, the passion to pursue it and the determination to see it through to the finish. Yet when we read or watch those stories, it can be all too easy to feel we don’t have the chops to be innovative in our own careers. We underestimate our influence.

Many of us fear rejection. We don’t want to rock the boat, and we’re embarrassed about what people will think if we ask for help. The reasoning may seem valid in the moment, but in truth the potential loss is minuscule when compared to what you have to gain. On an individual level, this is about empowering yourself. You’ve got more influence and persuasive power than you realize.

Innovation Is Not a Linear Concept

The first thing to remember is that most bosses and businesses value attempts at innovation, even if the idea in question turns out to be a dud. That’s not to say your idea will be a dud, just that it’s okay to be wrong, too. The best ideas don’t come like a bolt of lightning. They take time to develop, and development means introducing your concept to the world (or at least to your supervisor).

The key is to present your ideas with passion. When the people around you see that you believe strongly in your idea, they’re more likely to be receptive. Passion and persuasion go hand-in-hand.

The Most Successful Companies Encourage Innovation

So how is it that certain brands earn reputations as consistent innovators? It doesn’t happen by accident.

Amazon does it by hiring with a mission to delight customers—and giving those employees the room to explore new avenues (but expecting data to back it up). Some people find that restrictive, but others see it as a springboard to innovation.

Google does it by considering and backing outlandish innovations that could change the world if they work (they call those ideas Moon Shots). CEO Larry Page doesn’t believe in doing things in small, safe, incremental bits, and his belief in Moon Shots can be summed up in one sentence: Go Big or Go Home.

Apple does it by, among other things, putting a focus on diversity in hiring. Their belief is that a diverse employee pool will collaborate more effectively and spark more and better ideas. And they put their money where their mouth is—by reporting how they’re doing in diversity hiring right on their website.

These are three vastly different companies, but each inspires innovation by creating effective relationships between employees and management in their own way. And that’s the key—opening dialogue between employees and leadership, and fostering a culture that rewards collaboration and the offering of new ideas.

In the end, it still all comes back to relationships. Relationships between employees, peers and leadership should, ideally, create a culture that inspires innovation. However, as individuals, we still need to be willing to put our ideas out there, even if we’re afraid they won’t be well received. Don’t under-estimate yourself. Believe in yourself—and bring your passion to the table. And remember, you are more influential than you think.

Originally posted at The Future of Commerce

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