Innovation – Leading Business Forward
Why are Creativity and Innovation Key to Success?
When we say that someone is creative in business, it usually means that they have an open-minded approach to problems. They find solutions that may have previously been overlooked. A creative mind is constantly assessing what is currently happening and finding new ways of thinking and doing things.
Whereas creativity is subjective and difficult to measure, innovation is entirely measurable. Creativity finds new methods. Innovation puts these new methods into action. To be entirely successful in any organisation, creativity must be teamed with innovation, providing a rich harvest of ideas and viable, workable practices.
According to renowned economist and Harvard professor, Theodore Levitt, “What is often lacking is not creativity in the idea-creating sense but innovation in the action-producing sense – putting ideas to work.”
The human race is, arguably, the most successful species on the planet. This is due to our ability to innovate. Innovation leads to change and change leads to progress. Challenging old ways of doing things and developing new strategies is key to moving any business forward. Without creative thinking and innovative practices, many organisations would stagnate and eventually fail. Creativity and innovation are the lifeblood of a business and, as such, should be highly valued, encouraged and nurtured.
Some people are naturally creative, some are innovators and others find the whole process more difficult. It’s easy to lack confidence in your ideas if you’re immersed in an organisation that has always done things the same way because that has always worked in the past.
Throughout modern times, there have been creative innovators who have, literally, changed the world. Sometimes ridiculed for their outlandish ideas and often fighting an uphill battle against people who fear change, these notable individuals all have something to teach us. The following article looks at three such people and concludes with a few ideas of ways to increase your own powers of creativity and innovation.
Nikola Tesla – 1856 – 1943
Tesla famously said, “I don’t care that they stole my idea… I care that they don’t have any of their own.” He was undoubtedly persecuted by the big names in energy of the day – namely Thomas Edison – for his against-the-grain innovations concerning energy. Despite being dismissed and often ridiculed, Tesla was a voice that simply wouldn’t be silenced.
Tesla’s most famous innovation was the use of AC electrical current instead of DC electrical current. He proposed that AC was a far safer and cheaper means of power generation, even demonstrating AC’s safety by shooting the current through his own body to produce light. Despite many attempts to discredit Tesla and his work, it is his AC system that provides power generation and distribution to much of the modern world.
Elon Musk – Born 1971
Musk states that his innovations revolve around his vision to change the world and humanity. His goals include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and eliminating the risk of human extinction by establishing a colony on Mars.
Famously outspoken about his beliefs, Musk is as flamboyant in his personal life as he is successful in business. He once owned a McLaren F1 supercar, which he crashed while it was uninsured!
Most famous as being the innovator and largest shareholder of electronic money transfer giant, Paypal, Musk is also key to many other ventures. His company, SpaceX, is the largest producer of rocket engines in the world. Musk freely admits SpaceX was influenced and inspired by Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series.
He is also the current CEO of Tesla, a company specialising in the design and production of electrically powered vehicles. SolarCity, the second largest provider of solar power systems in the USA; Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system running on an air cushion; OpenAI, a non-profit artificial intelligence research company and Neuralink, a company working towards integrating the human brain with artificial intelligence – are all brain-children of this forward-thinking innovator.
Jack Andraka – born 1997
Andraka is an American inventor and scientist, well-known for his pioneering work on a potential method of detecting the early stages of pancreatic cancer. Much of this work was conducted whilst he was still at high school. He says the idea for his pancreatic cancer test occurred to him during a school biology lesson on antibodies, during which he was surreptitiously reading an article on analytical methods using carbon nanotubes.
The validity of Andraka’s findings has been questioned by other scientists, but Andraka himself maintains his convictions and continues with his research.
Andraka is keen to talk about his innovations and has appeared as a guest on The Colbert Report and been interviewed by the BBC. His mother told a UK newspaper, “We’re not a super-athletic family. We don’t go to much football or baseball. Instead, we have a million science magazines and sit around the table and talk about how people came up with their ideas and what we would do differently.” This innovation-nurturing environment apparently does the trick as Andraka’s older brother, Luke, has also enjoyed success, winning a prestigious award in 2010 for a project looking at how acid mine drainage affects the environment and also an MIT THINK award in 2011.
How You Can Be More Innovative
Innovation is all about harnessing your creativity and putting your ideas into action. Both creativity and innovation can be improved by practising a few simple techniques. Use some of the following ideas on a regular basis, get your creative juices flowing and implement innovative methods to drive your organisation forward.
- Create an inspiration wall (or board if space is restricted). Use this to display anything that speaks to you on a creative level. This could include magazine adverts, an email that made you laugh, a poster, inspirational quote or a social media meme that made you think.
- Get out of the office. Make it a habit to step away from your desk, go for a stroll or visit a park.
- Include time in your schedule for relaxation. Quieting your busy mind is one of the best ways to spark up your creativity. Consider meditation, yoga or swimming.
- Apply constraints to yourself. Deliberately limiting the time or budget you use for certain activities can up your levels of creativity and innovation.
- Surround yourself with unfamiliar ideas. Read journals from other industries, research other cultures and ideas you haven’t previously investigated.
- Listen to other people. Ask other people for their solutions and listen to their ideas. You may find that they inspire your own.
- Don’t fear failure. A risk-averse environment smothers innovation. Take every experience as an opportunity to learn. Success often comes after many perceived failures.
- Learn – a lot! The best innovators are often the most avid learners. Take time to learn about the things you feel passionate about.
- Keep an innovation notebook. Write down the ideas you have, even if they sound ridiculous at first. You may find you’ll go back to them and expand on them in time.
- Finally – never let yourself feel limited by the current circumstances. Just because it’s never been done a certain way before, doesn’t mean it won’t work in the future!