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Anwar Jumabhoy | Entrepreneur Insights

Innovation is another trait associated with Entrepreneurs and should not be confused with the invention. Nicholas Negroponte, the co-founder of the MIT Media Lab, explains the difference between ideas, innovation, and entrepreneurship;

“The Media Lab is about ideas, about inventions, about breakthroughs in science. These should not be confused with entrepreneurship or innovation, two equally important but different elements of a vibrant society and a strong economy. Not all ideas make startups and almost all startups make small ideas.”

Elon Musk, of PayPal and Tesla fame, contributes to this discussion; “When someone has a breakthrough innovation, it is rarely one little thing. Very rarely, is it one little thing. It’s usually a whole bunch of things that collectively amount to a huge innovation.” It is, for this reason, we suggest to entrepreneurs to focus on self-efficacy of the team. You need depth of talent, experience mixed with new thinking to come up with and most importantly, to execute on innovation. Innovations, as we know, need not be about new products, but also services, with AirAsia, Grab, Airbnb being great examples. 

To learn how can companies succeed in innovation we turned to a McKinsey & Company survey of 2,500 global executives in 2012 to identify eight essentials of innovation performance. A key insight they offered is that innovative companies focus on developing a pipeline of innovative ideas. The authors of the report write; “. . . companies should set in motion more projects that they will ultimately be able to finance, which makes it easier to kill those that prove less promising.” This avoids making only one bet and being left without any alternative.  

We have seen innumerable tips to increase innovation in our organizations and would like to mention a few that our own research has revealed:

  • Frequent communication by Leadership not only encouraging innovation, but also giving small examples, and importantly, focusing attention on specific areas where they would like to see it happening. 

  • Visible and substantial rewards and recognition to innovators.

  • Emphasizing volume over quality – at least in the initial stages. Examples like the gift bag, now much in use, which has easily replaced generations of fussing over wrapping paper, could have been thought of by anybody!

  • Treating innovation as an organization-wide challenge, opportunity, and responsibility – from the lowly sweeper to the highest executive. This you will find practised by Haier and Dyson.

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