Never Stop Innovating: 3 Suggestions To Get Started

Innovation is essential to any company. Small companies succeed because of their ability to move fast and innovate. Large companies try to continuously recapture their initial innovative spirit and mimic the small companies. For most, the idea of innovation is intertwined with their company culture. If they have a fun and exciting culture they are likely to innovate often. If they are boring old stiffs who sit behind their cubicles in suits and ties, anxiously waiting for 5:00pm…..they probably don’t even know what the definition of the word “innovation” is!

I view innovation from a unique perspective. It is the key to everything. I only want to be surrounded by people that seek to continuously innovate. These are the “A” players. Steve Jobs once said “‘A’ players only want to work with ‘A’ players.” He was right. In a world full of technology and extremely low barriers to entry, you need to keep pushing forward.

The threat of a few knucklehead kids sitting in a garage, building a platform to disrupt a Fortune 500 company is very real. This may scare the corporate executives but I think it is great for our economy and society. Having a great idea is a start but the true innovator is able to execute the plan successfully. Once they have a minimum viable product available, they begin working on version 2.0 instead of sitting back and admiring what they have built. And guess what they do once version 2.0 is built? You got it! They begin on 3.0 and then….you get the point.

So how do you become an innovator? Is it genetic or can you learn it in school? Unfortunately there is no right answer. Innovation is an acquired skill through the way you are raised, your life experiences, some classroom instruction, and your natural perception of the world. You can become a better innovator but there is no blue print for how to do this exactly. Here are three suggestions I have to at least get you started:

1. Hang out with InnovatorsInnovators tend to flock together. If you can surround yourself with them, you are likely to pick up some of their traits and their thought process. These groups of people usually encourage sharing and look to bounce ideas off of each other. Think of it as a personal support group that will help accelerate your learning curve in the world of innovation.

2. Practice, Practice, PracticeNow while some people do not think that practice is important, the best way to improve at innovation is to actually do it. Whether you start by trying to come up with a more efficient way to make food for your family or you try to solve the national dependency on oil, you can’t go wrong by starting. With practice will come experience which can help you in the future on projects that may turn into startup companies, etc.

3. Try to Fail – This is the most controversial suggestion. We live in a world where our children all receive participation trophies. The winner and the loser are both rewarded. Not my style but hey who am I, right? The concept here is to innovate on a large scale. Think outside the box. Think of something crazy and absurd…..then try to accomplish it. Seek to fail and fail miserably. If you try to solve world hunger but only end up helping a few homeless people in your area, is failing really that bad? Whether the failure is epic or miniscule you should ensure that you take the lessons learned with you into your next endeavor or the failure was wasted.

These suggestions might not work for everyone but they are a start. Innovation is not something you read a book on and learn overnight. It is a continuous process. The best innovators in the world are struggling today to continue to improve. Get started, keep going, and try to fail. After a few iterations of that cycle you just might find that you can innovate with the best of them. What can you build or improve? I dare you to try!

What Political Attack Ads Can Teach About Guerilla Marketing Techniques

This photo has been circulating the internet for a few days and I think it can teach entrepreneurs some pretty interesting things about marketing regardless of political views. First lets look at the actual photo. On the left, Mitt Romney is sitting in a chair on an airport tarmac getting his shoe wanded for security purposes. On the right, Barack Obama is walking past a janitor and “pounds it” (the modern, cool handshake). Both of these photos are put together to offer the viewer a contrast about the individuals, their beliefs, and ability to lead our country.

Why is this important to entrepreneurs? This is a fantastic job of implementing proven guerilla advertising and marketing techniques. Here are three effective aspects at play:

Use of public perception: The first aspect is the use of priorly held perceptions about each individual. People commonly think Romney is a rich, white man, while Obama is seen as an African-American who is “a man of the people.” This photo plays on those feelings by trying to make people think that Romney is receiving a shoe shine, while Obama is spending time with the everyday person. Right or wrong, these perceptions will persevere and are very powerful.

Use of powerful images: This “ad” uses two photos that are extremely powerful when you first look at them. It counts on the fact that the viewer will not look very hard at either one of them. They will not question them, but they will be in awe of their initial reaction to such powerful images. I must admit that at first glance, I thought Romney was getting a shoe shine as well. Shock and awe is a tactic that can create great results.

Viral Sharing/Exposure: You have heard that “any exposure is better than no exposure.” In this case, as long as people are talking, debating, or arguing over this ad, it is seen as effective. Create emotional responses from people and you will be more likely to get your desired results. Also, the viral sharing aspect is important because someone is much more likely to find an ad effective if it is attached to their friends in social media, rather than a generic ad. The more you can make something viral, the more eyes will see it, which ultimately increases effective exposure.

In the end, this ad accomplishes its goal through very simple means. Get people to solidify their thoughts on political candidates with two very simple photos. Context and delivery are important and affect the effectiveness of a campaign. This guerilla tactics not only work in politics, but in business as well!

Are there any other political ads that have similar traits? What other aspects do you see with this particular ad that could be used in business marketing?



Mark Cuban’s Best Piece of Motivation

I recently read Mark Cuban’s new ebook “How to Win at the Sport of Business” and want to share one of his unique perspectives. Being the owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, Cuban uses numerous sports analogies. One in particular really struck home and can serve as motivation to any entrepreneur.

Cuban says that in baseball if you could get a hit 4 out of 10 at bats, then you would be a first ballot Hall of Famer.  In basketball if a player is able to hit over 50% of his shots from the field, then he most likely would be voted an all-star. These percentages don’t seem unattainable but they are almost never reached year after year. In business, you face much better odds.

No matter how many businesses you start, you only have to make one successful. Every entrepreneur chases that one successful endeavor that will make them wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. Instead of having to “bat” .400 or “shoot” over 50%, as a business owner you could be .00001% successful and be considered a genius. These odds are reassuring to any entrepreneur.

With this in mind, we must remember that it is much easier to take a basketball shot or swing a baseball bat then it is to put your financial security at risk and start a business. To combat this, preparation is key in the world of business. To make every endeavor count and give it the best chance for success, put in the necessary time, effort, and work.

Overall, I enjoyed Cuban’s ebook. It was very short, an easy read, and also cheap. He provides insight into his thoughts and advice while including some humorous stories along the way. A great business mind shows once again why anyone can accomplish the level of success that he has. You just have to minimize risk through preparation and believe in your abilities. You can find the ebook here:

How many attempts would you go through in order to accomplish success? Have you ever been discouraged, persevered through it and then realized success shortly after? Share your stories and insight below!

What the San Francisco 49ers Taught Us About Leadership

The San Francisco 49ers are a football team in the National Football League (NFL). Before the 2011 season, the 49ers had experienced 8 consecutive non-winning seasons. These were tough times for a storied franchise that had seen Hall of Famers such as Steve Young and Jerry Rice play for them.

On January 7, 2011 the 49ers made a decision that completely changed their organization. They hired Jim Harbaugh as their head coach from Stanford University. The reason that this hire was so important was because Harbaugh would be responsible for the success or failure of the 2011 team.

Under Harbaugh, the 49ers obtained a 13-3 record and are still playing in the NFL playoffs on their way to the Super Bowl. With this turnaround, one must ask how could such a dramatic change have occurred in one season?

The answer lies in the head coach. Jim Harbaugh was able to bring a certain toughness and unique mindset to the team that helped them to accomplish success. This could only be done by a leader who was able to empower those he leads. Harbaugh showed this group of men what their potential was and then laid out a plan of action for them to accomplish it.

This type of leader is essential to a successful company as well. An executive who can show his team their potential and lay out a similar plan will realize success beyond their wildest dreams. While hard work, persistence, and a great idea are helpful, a team can not be successful without a great leader. Many people believe these leaders are born, but I believe that a leader can be made. Many books, articles, and advice pieces exist to help mold a great leader. Now that you know you need a great leader, are you willing to become that individual?

I am not a 49ers fan but though this was a great example to use. Have you ever been led by a great leader? What are the leadership qualities of the great leaders that you have known? Share your stories and experiences below!

Why having failed is the best asset to possess…

Reading this post got me thinking about failure and how it has affected those that experience it.  Everyone fails at something but their reaction to failure is how the population is separated into two distinct categories.  The first category is reserved for the individuals who say “Well that didn’t work out, so I will go back to doing what I was doing before” and never builds the courage to attempt anything risky again.  The second category contains those individuals who are either too stubborn, too determined, or too busy to notice or accept failure.

This second category is where success awaits.  The person who takes failure as an insult and uses it as motivation to become even more determined, is the same person that ends up surpassing all expectations.  The lessons learned in failure, whether big or small, are something that can not be taught in a classroom, but are life-changing when learned through personal experience.  Dare to fail, try to fail, but most of all expect to fail.  I recently heard this quote and continue to revisit it: “If you don’t fail, then you haven’t tried hard enough!”

What is a failure that you have experienced?  How did you learn from it?  Do you still use the lessons that you learned?