The Mindset of An Innovator

In aiming for innovation, surround yourself with those that think differently than you. Doing so will allow you more perspectives than what you would be capable of. The old adage of “Great minds may think alike” but great inventions come from multiple great minds.
–Siam Luu

… and I would like to add,

Great Minds Think Differently!

WHAT’S THE difference between someone who innovates and someone who does not?

How come some individuals are “movers and shakers” while others sit back and hope something will happen?

While there are a plethora of articles and books written about innovation and entrepreneurship, I want to approach innovation from the psychological perspective. Innovative moments can be moments of inspiration, those “ah-ha” moments, which start out small, and like a seed that is planted, when planted in fertile soil and nurtured, it can grow and become that which it is fully capable of becoming.

Let’s look at some criteria for innovation that allows us to look into the mindset of an innovator.

  • Innovation is about change
  • Innovation starts with an idea and starts out small
  • Innovation is purposeful and requires discipline
  • Innovation takes us into the realm of uncertainty
  • Innovation embraces challenges and unknowns
  • Innovation requires a change in perspective
  • Innovation is about creating
  • Innovation is about transformation

With these criteria, we are given a glimpse into the mindset of an innovator. This individual is not afraid of change and views change as an opportunity. An innovator is not resistant to change and when an unforeseen challenge arises, embraces the challenge by staying purposeful and disciplined to see it through rather than wanting things to go back to the “old way.” Innovators take to heart, Milton Berle’s statement:

The sky has never been the limit. We are our own limits. It’s then about breaking our personal limits and outgrowing ourselves to live our best lives.
From this, we can glean that an innovator breaks out of personal limits, which is about going out of their comfort zone and a willingness to try something altogether new and different.

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Innovation and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. Because they are often coined together, we need make a distinction between the mindset of an innovator and that of an entrepreneur. The on-line dictionary offers these definitions. Innovation is “the action or process of innovating a new method, idea, or product. Entrepreneur is “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money” or “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” The innovator is driven to imagine, create, and develop something new and is usually not considering the risk. It is the entrepreneur who looks at the value and inherent risks. Since the entrepreneur addresses the risks, how can the entrepreneur address the barriers inherent in risks and develop plans to implement innovation into an organization. I read an interesting question the other day:

Will entrepreneurialism help us to get back to growth through innovation?

Perhaps that is not the question to be asking. Perhaps we are living in a risk-adverse culture that inhibits the new method, idea, or product from coming to fruition. Perhaps the entrepreneur is met with resistance from the predominant mindset of precaution, risk-aversion, and fear of the unknown. When considering the question above, the entrepreneur has a similar mindset to the innovator yet different because s/he has to consider risk. In addition to risk, the entrepreneur is given the challenge of changing the fixed mindsets of an organization into an open-mindset. Financial metrics are only part of the issue. A deeper issue is the barriers to change, not wanting to rock the boat. We need to develop new criteria in evaluating ideas and look toward the substantial new value.

When we look at the mindset of an innovator, it is about looking for the opportunities to grow and change, unlock the fullest potential of an idea and develop it into the strengths and strategies of an organization. The entrepreneur has to bridge the gap between the innovator and the fixed mindset abhorrent to change and risk.

The Mindset of An Innovator

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The innovator has to invent, that is how they are wired. Like the Wright Brothers whose work with bicycles influenced their drive to find a way to balance and control an aircraft, they had to listen to their call and find a way. The time had arrived and in the words of Victor Hugo,

You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.
Since innovators are wired to invent, we cannot stop the internal wheel within to stop them. An organization that has taken innovations to the top needs to consider the cycle of innovation and find a way to keep the cycle in continuous motion and not squelch the innovator from doing what they do best. A pictograph says it all.

The Cycle of Innovation

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Successful businesses start with an innovative thought. From that thought, and from many failed attempts, the final outcome becomes successful and flourishes. There is one more issue that separates the innovators from the non-innovators. Instead of having a mindset that something failed, I believe the innovators’ mindset is their attempt either will work or it won’t, i.e., they are always seeking how to improve it and make it better. Failure is not part of their mindset.

I hope you found value in this article. I appreciate your likes and welcome your comments.