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 Innovators – Innovators 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, Practice – Now 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!