The word “innovation” is fired off so many times that I wonder if people know what it really means. An idea can be creative, but I think true innovation starts with an innovative person. It starts with someone who thinks outside of the norm. In a recent edition of Entrepreneur magazine, a series of articles celebrates 100 of the most brilliant up-and-coming companies and seeks to find out what makes them so successful. Below I’ve listed a few things that stand out to me.
Step out of your element.
Don’t be afraid to think different. So what if you have a degree in a specialized area or if you’ve worked in one field for twenty years; don’t let your expertise or experience limit your ability to acquire different types of knowledge and skills. Some entrepreneurs’ most successful ideas are made in unfamiliar territory. They may even be shot down by the so-called “industry experts.”
Some innovative ideas are borderline crazy.
Those are the ones I like. Consider adopting the mind of billionaire Richard Branson. He started in the music industry by making a major record label. Then he started a commercial airline. Now he wants to offer flights into outer space. He is even envisioning “space hotels.”
On a less monumental scale but with an equally impressive sense of creativity, Jonathan Kaplan began with an HD video camera business, sold it for millions, then decided to start a grilled-cheese sandwich shop. The shop is now an ever-growing restaurant chain.
The Why-Hasn’t-Anyone-Thought-of-this-Before Idea
Now, innovation doesn’t have to be about creating a multi-billion dollar empire. In Entrepreneur magazine, I found that one of the most common forms of innovation simply started by implementing a little more tech.
One entrepreneur made a healthcare App that helped patients fill out their information and helped doctors make diagnoses and order prescriptions. This simple innovation changed the healthcare experience for everyone.
“Sometimes brilliance is merely a deceptively simple, why-hasn’t-anyone-thought-of-this-before solution to a nagging problem.”
What the big boys think of your creativity.
Whether you are a mad genius or a quiet brainiac, as an entrepreneur, you will have to show your investors/bankers the value of your creativity. In Entrepreneur magazine, three investors describe what they look for:
- J. Christopher Burch, head of Christopher Capital, “looks for opportunities and ideas that have the ability to change the way consumers go about their daily routines. ‘I believe if you are creative about product and environment, the customer will follow.’”
- Brad Feld, managing director of Foundry Group, says there are “two things we look for: an amazing product and people who are obsessed with it.”
- Larry Marcus, managing director at Walden Venture Capital says, “Our starting point to consider an investment is a demonstration of the product or technology – we want to see a demo generate real excitement… We then want to see a highly adaptive and capital efficient management team with a clear vision of what they want to be.”
All-in-all, the big boys get pretty hyped up about great ideas. However, just as important as the creativity is your passion and your power to carry those ideas forward. An innovative idea is nothing without the person to make it happen.
What helps you and your company be innovative?