I’m going to start out by pointing out something most individuals seem to fail to understand.
Innovation and creativity are not synonymous. Creativity is definitely a factor, but innovation is a much longer string.
Being innovative isn’t an accident. You can’t just happen to be innovative -- it’s a process.
There are steps and crucial information that must be collected. Being innovative is one of the most difficult things to accomplish.
Innovation is only innovation if it’s useful. Otherwise, it’s just being creative or being unnecessary.
Innovation is what drives progress, what drives the human race one step closer to the impossibility of perfection.
In order to be innovative, you have to think differently. Here are 11 ways innovative people think differently from the rest:
1. They take the time to understand the industry.
You can’t innovate unless you understand what already exists. Even if you think you understand the playing field, the fact is that you don’t.
Industries aren’t stagnant -- unless they’re dying. And even then, there is so much information one can learn about any particular industry. Knowing everything is basically impossible.
And if the industry is still growing, it isn’t even possible to keep up with all the progress.
Nevertheless, the most innovative people understand unless they know the industry well enough, they will never understand what it’s lacking.
If you don’t know what an industry is lacking, then you can’t possibly understand what innovations are needed.
2. They take the time to understand their target market/user base.
No matter what innovation you’re in the process of creating, it will involve people, living things.
You need to understand what it is your users need before you can give it to them.
That’s all that innovation really is: giving people what they need in a better, more efficient and more pleasing way.
3. They’re problem solvers.
There are plenty of trending businesses that do very well in the beginning, but then die out as soon as the trend shifts.
This is why the tech bubble will inevitably pop -- too many “cool” startups are creating products and services that have “fun” as their single utility.
The problem with “fun” is it requires constant novelty and risks becoming boring. Innovation is a necessary part of progress and, therefore, goes beyond “fun.”
To innovate is to create to fill a necessity gap. If you aren’t solving problems, you’re only creating them.
4. They focus on quality.
You can innovate by creating a poor-quality product or service, but your business is going to eventually get beaten out by competitors; it happens all the time.
If you’re innovating and creating a crappy product and someone comes out with the same solution but better, what do you think is going to happen?
Even if you did come up with the idea, no one will remember because you won’t be around to tell the story.
5. They understand the importance of design.
Apple is Apple because of the integration of design and utility.
Design alone won’t get you anywhere, but without a physical, visual appeal, you won’t get anywhere either.
If whatever you’re selling doesn’t look great and isn’t easy to use, it’s lacking. And if it’s lacking, it leaves room for improvement -- improvement someone else is likely to act on.
6. They know the “rules” but know better than to play by them.
You can’t innovate if you keep doing the same things everyone else does, the same way everyone else does them.
Rules of any industry are simply guidelines, starting points to build off or to tweak and change.
If you do things the way they have always been done, then you’re going to reach results that are too similar to those who have already been created.
7. Unlike most, they manage to thrive in the midst of uncertainty.
The difficulty with innovating is the uncertainty that always accompanies it.
Innovation and uncertainty necessarily go hand in hand -- how could you possibly be certain something is going to work if no one has ever done it before?
If it really is an innovation, whether or not it will take is a complete mystery.
8. They see efficiency as key.
Innovation has always depended on making something better, meaning faster, easier, less costly, more useful.
Efficiency is the driving force behind innovation. Human beings love efficiency because it’s literally ingrained in our biology.
We have egos that are both incredibly lazy and only want the very best.
9. They get creative.
Finally, when you understand what you’re working with, what people need, what they want, what you’re going to have to deal with and how you’re going to overcome all the hurdles that are likely ahead of you, it’s time to get creative.
No idea is too silly until it’s too silly. Jotting, taking notes, doodling, bouncing ideas off of others -- all part of the process.
10. They believe in themselves to get the job done right.
Innovative individuals are only capable of being innovative because they believe they are capable of being innovative.
If you don’t believe you can accomplish something, then you’ll never break past the necessary threshold.
Innovation is difficult. It used to be easier, but even innovation has its limits -- everything does.
It only makes sense that, as innovation solves problems, people will inevitably have less problems to solve.
If you don’t have the confidence and faith in yourself to push through all the muck, you’re going to end up giving up before you even get started. In fact, that’s what usually happens.
11. They believe in the vision.
Believing in yourself is one thing. And not always an easy thing.
What makes it easier, however, is having a vision you believe in. If you believe in the product, the service, the company/team, then sometimes that’s enough.
Just bear in mind not everyone will believe in your vision. In fact, most probably won’t.
People like to poke at and make fun of others as a means of making themselves feel better for never accomplishing anything in their own lives.
Nevertheless, being the only one who believes something will work while most people disagree makes focusing on the end goal more difficult.
For this reason, you must be absolutely convinced what you’re working on is necessary.
Otherwise, all those schmucks may convince you you’re wrong.