Friday, January 15, 2010
The innovators within and around us
I’m constantly blown away by the brilliant, innovative ideas around us. It’s a shame that so very few of those ideas see the light of day.
Brilliant people with innovative ideas are everywhere, but most of their ideas get caught in one of three traps:
Fear/Risk: Innovative ideas are inherently risky. They buck trends, go against the status quo. The risk of failure is quite high. It’s why most people keep their day jobs and merely dream about their ideas vs. taking action on them. Oftentimes this is born out of income risk. I can’t quit my day job to give this a shot – if it fails, my income and family suffers. Or it could be the risk of ruining your reputation. Try something innovative at work, and if it fails that may damage your success record. Or your promotion. Or raise. This is why so many great ideas, innovations and start-ups are born in a recession. Individuals with great ideas lose their secure jobs, so the risk of starting or trying something totally different goes down significantly.
Rejection: Because innovative ideas aren't what people expect, they get rejected easily. If you raise an innovative idea in a big company, it's likely to get squashed. If you run a new idea by someone who's embedded in the status quo, they won't understand what you're saying. Worse, they'll tell you it will never work. Innovators get rejected - a lot - but for many would-be innovators, that rejection is too much to overcome. Either they can't move forward in their existing organization, or become convinced that the nay-sayers are right. That's a travesty.
Bandwidth: Who has time for new ideas anyway? You woke up this morning with too much to do as it is - current projects, current deadlines, current initiatives. We then go home to family, kids, chores and a thousand things pulling at our time. Innovations usually start in someone's spare time, but finding that time can itself be a significant challenge. If you get laid off, and suddenly have a plethora of time, the bandwidth limiter is eliminated. But for the rest of us, finding time to triage and pursue our new ideas can often ben an insurmountable challenge.
For every entrepeneur, no matter how confident or determined, these hurdles exist. For the majority of individuals with great ideas, these hurdles can in fact be crippling.
But there are equal but opposite attributes that successful innovators have that anyone can learn and/or adopt. These include courage, tenacity, passion, organization and thick skin. But perhaps most important is conviction. Conviction that you're onto something, that you're right, conviction that it doesn’t matter if others can't see it, if it's risky, or if it takes a few extra hours in the evening and weekends to tinker with it.
There are innovators within all of us. Everyone has these amazing ideas - be they recurring or fleeting - that can create massive change, efficiency and betterment in the world around us - at a micro and macro level, and everywhere in between.
Perhaps part of the solution isn't to convert innovators into entrepreneurs, but to create a better channel of innovative ideas into the hands of those with the time, courage and tenacity to make them happen. Make the idea exchange easy, but with all the right attribution and financial rewards available to the originator.
Your neighbor has an idea that could change the world, but isn't doing anything about it. How do we change that?
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