Innovation is everyone's great desire. We worship innovation. Entrepreneurs embrace it. Careers are made on it. Companies compete over it. The challenge is we may not all be talking about the same thing. This makes the concept of what innovation actually is or not, hard to pin down. Are we talking about a technology, a business model, strategy or just a gadget. Maybe innovation is less about a "thing" like hardware but more of an idea--a mindset.
In my thirty years of examining both innovators and the process of innovation, I have made some observations. I think that innovation starts within. Innovation is a mindset first, a way of conceptualizing. It is a way of seeing the invisible and acting on insight. Innovation starts as a mindset, a particular way of seeing what's possible. A mindset is a mental framework. Then there is the act of experimenting, risking and finally inventing something, that makes the innovation. An idea made manifest that has never existed before is innovation. The other central aspect to innovation is that it enables some type of transaction value--it makes something possible for the first time in a new way and often a better way. Credit cars are more efficient then cash. Cars are more reliable then horses. You get the idea.
Innovators who are good at this game know that innovation starts from within their vision of the future. They spark with innovation ideas as a second nature. But deciphering what their plan is, what they are actually up to, even what the actual end game that makes it really an innovation, can be puzzling.
For example is Tesla's innovation really about building electric cars or building a new energy network that never existed before? It may not be about innovating with the car but in building a new energy market for many solutions of which autos, batteries, public transit such as the Hyperloop are all part of this mindset.
Is Google now working on artificial intelligence and deep learning to turn the web into just a more efficient search engine, or are they creating a new a type of synthetic intelligence that can predict and help our civilization?
Is Apple's end game with Apple TV to make an actual television? Or is this a work in progress to expand into new markets where their phones and computers can have new forms of customer engagement--new ecosystems of interaction built on the Apple brand.
The innovator's mindset is a body of work that I have been exploring with my clients for some time. I think there are urgent learning opportunities here in a world where disruption is becoming the new normal in business. Once you consider that innovation starts with how you think, that your mindsets can shape your organization, your team and and your culture, you have to consider if these mindsets support innovation or not. If you want to be more innovative some of these strategies may help to enable that future.
The innovator's mindset embraces these ten strategies I have found in my research:
1. Bring value and meaning that is clearly unique.
2. Create a culture of inventing that others can build on.
3. Move with velocity to embrace the new.
4. Have the courage to create.
5. Disrupt yourself before others do.
6. If you don't have passion about an idea, don't do it.
7. Change something to make it better, bring the value.
8. Monetizing innovation is called success.
9. People do the innovating.
10. Decide what mountain top you want to own, then go for it.
Now I am not saying that every strategy here should be followed to enable innovation. I am saying that the way innovators think, their mindset is different and these ten strategies are reflective of how different they are. Leading innovators in life sciences like Craig Venter who mapped the genome, Dr. Rick Smalley the Nobel winner in nanoscience, Elon Musk of Tesla and Steve Jobs, share a common mindset. These strategies capture some of the ways innovators think. They envisioned the future and then forged ahead to make that future happen. Their mindset's led the way.
Your either shaping your future or someone else is. That is everyone's choice. Every individual and company. Thinking like an innovator thinks, is a good start to shaping your future.