10 ingredients for game-changing innovation

Innovation isn’t a supernatural event, a preordained occurrence that only happens to certain people. And great innovators don’t go from zero-to-great in a heartbeat. More often than not, they stand on the shoulders of giants, see things a little bit differently, or benefit from timing, opportunity, or luck.

Innovation is definitely a hot topic these days, but the one thing that’s fuzzy for most people is where does it actually come from?

I mean, what makes one guy innovative and another, well, just a regular guy? Before we get into that, let me explain a few things about innovation.

For one thing, it’s not the same as invention, although folks often confuse the two. Invention is a unique discovery or finding; innovation is introducing something new.

That may sound like semantics, and maybe it is, but at least in my mind, there’s one big difference: innovation can be an application of someone else’s invention in a new and practical way.

In Innovators Don’t See Different Things – They See Things Differently, we talked about what Malcolm Gladwell calls the Creation Myth: that an innovator may not be the guy who comes up with the idea but the guy who turns that idea into something people can use.

For example:

  • Steve Jobs didn’t invent the GUI or the computer mouse, but when he saw them demonstrated, his mind was probably racing with practical applications.
  • Howard Schultz didn’t invent coffee, espresso, or cappuccino, but he has certainly been an innovator in bringing all that to the masses through Starbucks.
  • McDonald’s was the fast-food innovator, but I seriously doubt there are any real inventions under the golden arches.
  • Bill Gates didn’t invent the PC operating system and he certainly didn’t come up with the idea of licensing technology, but his business model – combining the two – made Microsoft one of the most valuable and powerful companies in the world.

Having spent my entire career working with entrepreneurs and innovators in the high-tech industry, these are the 10 characteristics and methodologies that I think define innovative people:

Where does innovation come from?

  1. Standing on the shoulders of giants. Contrary to popular belief, innovation is often far more evolutionary than revolution, more practical and crafty than breakthrough invention. Most of the time you’re repurposing somebody else’s idea……

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