Invaluable Innovation

The wheel, the light bulb, the radio, glass, carbon fiber, semi-conductors, personal computers, hydroelectricity, the chicken sandwich. Creations of the mind turned into reality. Innovations. But they don’t appear out of the blue – often, these new concepts come about as a spin or evolution of an existing “thing”. Each one is a building block that allows us to see further, thus unlocking the next great idea.

Collectively we come to rely on innovations. What was once seemingly magic, such as the incandescent light bulb, became an everyday necessity for billions of people and several generations. Innovations are like oxygen for our advancement. We absorb them into our society and they act like nutrients feeding our growth.

Ideas are everywhere. At a cookout or over dinner with friends someone will often spout out a new idea or fix for some common problem. They will know it is a great idea, and if only they had the time or money they could bring it to all of us. We all have innovations inside of us. We are all constantly analyzing the status quo and improving it in our minds. For example, we stand in line at a fast food restaurant and quickly devise ways that the speed and efficiency of the checkout process could be improved.

Here are two thoughts on innovation that help make it practical:

  • Innovation is invaluable.
  • We all have ideas that are improvements, innovations.

Therefore, we should see ourselves as innovators. We should begin to voice our ideas in constructive ways. Most breakthroughs are really a rolling combination of little improvements. We can be part of that process. We can impact our personal lives, our families, our community organizations and our companies. Be ready for push back however. Thomas Edison's famous quote, "I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” teaches us the mindset it takes to be a great innovator. We must put our ideas out there, layer upon layer with our willpower to get the secret sauce for innovation.

One of my favorite innovations to watch these days is the electric car. Some say it will never happen, while some say it is inevitable. And some- like Tesla Motors - are determined to make it happen. Tesla is not only creating new technologies but it’s also perfecting the prior innovations of others and combining them into a commercial product. They’re both innovative and have a solid long-term plan. From Tesla Motors' website:

Our business plan, boiled down to its simplest expression, was to build a low-volume/high-price car (Roadster) as a proof of both the technical and commercial concept, to then use that credibility to launch a ground-up mid-volume/mid-priced sedan (Model S) to show that EVs can indeed be superior to conventional ICE competitors, and then to launch a high-volume/low-price EV (Gen III) to illustrate that great EVs are available to all.

Inspiration comes from all sorts of places. Pair that inspiration with your unique talents to improve your products, your processes and your environment and one thing will become clear: we are all innovators.