Many of the startup investors I know are disappointed that so few of the startup ideas they see are really innovative or disruptive. Most of us are incremental or linear thinkers, and we miss the really big opportunities, like the next smartphone or space travel. That ability to “see around the next corner” seems to be limited to a very few entrepreneurs, such as Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.
Of course, one key reason for incremental thinking is to limit the risk, and also perhaps get something going with less initial investment. Yet I’m convinced that we all need to expand the scope of our thinking and learning to envision and drive more disruption innovations, and increase the potential opportunities. I recommend the following strategies as a start:
Surround yourself with smart people and collaborate. Collaboration takes effort, and requires you to swallow your ego. Too many entrepreneurs I know surround themselves with “yes” people, or they are simply convinced that working alone gives them the best answers. You need to create a culture of trust and collaboration around you, and listen.
Look for parallels to breakthroughs in other industries. For example, it may seem obvious now, but early computers were all about linear processor speed, rather than the highly parallel processing we see today. Look to other disciplines, experts, and cultures to expand your mind with sea-change possibilities that you can apply to your domain.
Many pundits are convinced that artificial intelligence, which has led breakthroughs in gaming and industry, has seen little traction in the healthcare sector. They see many applications offering alternative diagnoses, chatbots, and data interpretation in our future.
Stop thinking and get moving on a creative idea. How often have you heard, “I had that idea first,” as someone else achieved success on an innovative idea? We all have much to learn from experiments, prototypes, and minimum viable products (MVP). The real innovation blockers are usually lack of infrastructure and consumer fear of change.
Jeff Bezos credits much of Amazon’s continued success to his support of disruptive change “experiments.” He believes that if you double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to double your probability of pulling people around the next corner.
Don’t give up on your dream after the first setback. I really believe that the biggest cause of startup failure is entrepreneurs who give up too soon. The path to success for breakthrough innovations is a long journey with many challenges, rather than an easy sprint. You need to foster determination and motivation to succeed across your team.
The most determined entrepreneurs take every setback as a new insight to success, pivots to a better alternative, and moves on. Seth Godin has asserted that it takes about six years of hard work to become an overnight success, so don’t give up too quickly.
Practice inspirational leadership and communication. Starting an innovative new business is not a one-person show. You need to assemble the right team, and inspire all of them to go beyond their comfort zone. Effective and frequent communication of goals, progress, and feedback is key to engagement and motivation of everyone on the team.
Highlight and support a higher purpose as well as profit. Finding a compelling sense of purpose, such as saving the environment or helping the disadvantaged, has proven to be an extra motivator for both the entrepreneur and the customer to adopt a disruptive innovation. This must be something that matches your personal values and strengths.
Tesla was the first company to break through with totally electric cars, and gives much of the credit to it’s mission is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy, and provide transportation at an affordable price. The transition has been a long time coming.
Exceptional creativity alone is never enough to successfully get your customers to follow you “around the corner” to the new world that you imagine. You need to learn and adopt the supplemental strategies outlined here to make your dream a reality. Then you too can join the ranks of entrepreneurs who not only see the future, but can make it a key part of their legacy.
*** First published on Inc.com on 11/10/2021 ***
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