In the world of business, innovation in king. There is a lot that business can offer health—and the recovery process in particular. When faced with addiction to drugs or alcohol, dramatic change can be necessary. To find success in your recovery journey and realize your full potential, innovating your recovery process may be exactly what you need.
If we agree that innovation in general can help with the process of addiction to recovery, what would that look like? And what steps can guide us through our needed innovations?
Using Recovery as an Opportunity to Innovate
Look at the recovery process as a chance to innovate yourself. Whether you realize it or not, you have already done this many times before. Think back to moving out of your parents’ place from high school into college. Then you got your first job and learned to be responsible for yourself. Maybe you had children, and needed to innovate yourself to become a father, husband, mother, wife.
You didn’t just know how to be a good parent or spouse when you started, but through trial and error—learning from mistakes, trying something new and then iterating on those new ideas—you figured it out.
Q: What’s going on behind the scenes?
4 Steps of Business Innovation
Looking into the world of business innovation, we can see what is typically a 3 or 4-step innovation process. David Power outlined these 4 Steps to an Effective Innovation Process in a piece for Harvard University:
- Observe your customers,
- Create new solutions,
- Prototype and learn in the market, and
- Implement the best ideas.
Innovation expert Darin Eich, Ph.D. identified specific steps one can take to go through an innovation process to tackle an important challenge. You can read more from Dr. Eich in his book Innovation Step-by-Step: How to Generate & Develop Ideas for your Challenge. In an article about the innovative thinking mindset, he shares these three basic stages for a personal innovation process:
- Identify the challenge,
- Brainstorm ideas, and
- Take action.
The similarities are obvious, and it’s clear that innovation as a tool for self-improvement has proven successful.
So why not apply this innovation process to help you recover from an addiction? Why not develop your own recovery prototype? Think of your recovery journey as a product you are creating for yourself. You have been innovating your entire life, but you have probably not been thinking about yourself as a product. For a moment, let’s see what can be learned by looking at the connections between innovation and recovery.
Recovery with the Innovation Process
Step 1: Observe the Problem, and Issue a Challenge
You can gain a deeper understand of potential solutions by first building an understanding of your problem. Businesses call this a pain point, and they look to address it during product development. If you’re addicted, you will eventually become sick and tired of being sick and tired. You need to examine your product.
If you might be becoming addicted, you could deny that the problem exists, just like a business denying that their product needs to be revised. In the end, however, the observation that something is not right will become more obvious. There may be a problem.
To progress to the second stage of the innovation process, a business needs to identify that their product has a problem. Similarly, those struggling with alcohol or drug addiction may not identify that there is a problem in need of attention.
Step 2: Create New Solutions, and Brainstorm
Once a pain point has been identified, a business begins to look at ways they can create new solutions. Be open and free on how you draw it up. A business may change the structure of their product, or how the product interfaces with its users. Those struggling with addiction need new ideas for how to change their product. Perhaps part of the product is using drugs and alcohol for a good time and a tool to cope with life’s stress.
The first new ideas will likely come from the addicted person’s prior education and experiences. Maybe they enter rehab, or decide to just go it alone. Maybe they abstain from use for a short period to see how much control the addiction truly has over them.
These brainstormed ideas may or may not work for any particular individual. A business that can generate as many ideas as possible will have a much better shot at coming up with solution that sticks. Your personal business of addiction recovery can be seen in a similar light—the more ideas for staying sober, the better off you will be. This process requires you to do your research, and trying out new ways of living. it requires trying new things to see what does and does not work for you and your recovery journey.
Don’t just brainstorm—try these new behaviors out. To truly innovate, first generate ideas, and then test them.
Step 3: Prototyping, and Learning from Prototypes
Take risks by trying some of your new ideas for sobriety. This may mean getting a substance abuse assessment, entering outpatient treatment, attending an AA, NA or Smart Recovery meeting, listening to recovery podcasts, or just reading stories from others who have overcome their addiction. You need to draw your recovery line in the sand somewhere.
This is how you prototype your recovery program to learn about the business of recovery. Most businesses will not get their prototypes correct the first time around. They are adjusted and revamped over multiple iterations. Innovation in recovery is no different.
Through years of working as an alcohol and drug counselor, I have noticed that success often comes to those who try a lot of new ideas. The most successful continue to learn and revamp their personal recovery plan.
Step 4: Act on the Best Ideas, and Continue to Iterate
“Take those successful prototypes to market—and keep learning.”
Market test your recovery prototype with your own life. Then ask yourself what works and what doesn’t work. How can you continue to refine your recovery prototype? Always remember that prototypes are not perfect on the first try—that’s why they are called prototypes!
A prototype must be revised over time. Think about ways you can continue to implement new ideas for your recovery that may work for you. Would more AA, NA or Smart Recovery meetings work for you? Perhaps you need to introduce more healthy and fun activities into your lifestyle. Or maybe you could use periodic meetings with a life coach or substance abuse counselor. maybe it’s even a career change in an effort to increase personal happiness and passion for life.
Most likely, you will have prototypes that crash and burn, maybe even leading to relapse. But that is also the case for many who try to go from addiction to recovery. Eighty percent of those in recovery will relapse in the process of trying something new, but the same is true for most business prototypes—they just don’t work out the way you’d hope the first time around.
Revisit and Revise
Recovery is an opportunity to create new prototypes for a new you. This is your chance to develop and change your priorities. And you can get there by learning from the world of business to innovate, learn from that innovation, and continue to revise as you go along. The innovation process takes iteration over time.
No, go out and innovate!
A version of this and other blogs by Ted Izydor can be found at addictionblog.org.