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Be an Innovator and Create Something

by Elena on December 3, 2009

GoogleWhat do guys like Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos have in common?  Yes they are insanely wealthy, and yes they were young when they made their millions, and ok yes a few of them started their companies in their garage; but besides all that, what I want to focus on is the fact that they are true innovators that changed they way things were done in their fields.

While rummaging around Barnes and Nobles, I came across an article in The Harvard Business Review about innovation in business.  I felt guilty spending $16 on a magazine, so I opted for a $5 foam something or other from Starbucks instead and sat down to read the article.

The following couple of days I was telling anyone who would listen about “The Innovator’s DNA.”  I usually avoid titles with the word business in them, but this article struck a chord.  “The Innovator’s DNA” discusses what sets apart innovative companies like eBay and Amazon.  They may be big corporations now, but they all started with an idea, no matter how small.  eBay started because its founder wanted to help his fiancee find rare Pez dispensers, you know, the plastic toy that releases candy from its head.  Google, known for its innovative products, completely changed the way we search for information.  Their work ethic, offices, algorithms, advertising, products etc. etc. continue to influence and dominate the search landscape.  (Admittedly, Google makes my nerdy heart flutter, so I may be a bit biased).

The review studied the habits of 25 innovative entrepreneurs, as well as thousands of other executives and individuals involved in such companies.  As it turns out, there are certain “discovery skills” that innovators use to get ahead.  The good news is that these skills are most often learned.  In other words, you aren’t born with the gene to create an empire.  It’s also fascinating because they aren’t limited to entrepreneurs.  Anyone interested in living outside of the box can use them to get ahead.

Associating
Innovators are open minded and can relate various ideas from various fields in order to be successful.  A rather famous example is Steve Jobs, who dropped out of college  and took a course in calligraphy.  A career in calligraphy is not a traditional career  choice, however years later while designing the first Macintosh computer, Steve Jobs was able to use his calligraphy skills.  He introduced various typefaces and fonts that were later copied by Microsoft and used today on all computers.

Questioning
Innovators ask questions, simple as that.  They ask the easy questions and the hard ones.  They challenge assumptions and don’t believe that things need to be done a certain way.  Maybe that’s why Sergey Brin enters business meetings on rollerblades.  Why not?  By asking lots of questions you get down to what people want and the ways to make your products and information better and more useful.

Observing
Innovators learn from what is around them.  Even Shakespeare borrowed themes and storylines from the great writers before him.  New technology builds upon the technology before it and the media is constantly changing.  By studying those around you, the successes as well as the mistakes, you gain insight for your future endeavors.

Experimenting
Innovators aren’t afraid to experiment.  With experimentation you risk failure, but they are willing to risk some failure to attain their goal.  As an innovator, you need to learn from your mistakes and go forward with your successes.  After being fired from Apple, Steve Jobs started Pixar, and as luck would have it, he returned to Apple when they bought his other company NeXT.

Networking
Innovators network because they can learn from others.  Not only do they need to test out their ideas, but they also gain a greater perspective from others, inside and outside their field.

Image via: Yodel Anecdotal

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Drew Knapp December 16, 2009 at 1:34 am

another great article, Elena!

Elena December 16, 2009 at 9:06 am

Thank you Drew!

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