If you are like many people, the constant introduction of new products on the market can make you feel like you can’t keep up. Technology is a prime example of this. From 8 track tapes to mini IPods, from Beta to DVD technology is constantly changing and improving over time. What seems like the cutting edge today will be obsolete tomorrow. This is an example of innovation.
Innovation basically means introducing something new into society or the marketplace. The product is original and important to society in some way. Many people have creative ideas that spawn a product that becomes the next big fad-think pet rocks, mood rings and the big mouth bass. While these people have an original idea and usually make some money selling their fad product, it doesn’t necessarily fall into the category of innovation.
At its best innovation can make life easier and better for people. It can create comfort, improve living conditions and help society as a whole. At its worst innovation may also lead to pollution, corruption and exploitation. How can a person be innovative in a way that is beneficial to themselves, society, the economy and the greater good? It is not always the easiest path to walk but here are some tips that may help:
• Care about what you are doing and the people your product will service. Immerse yourself in their culture or society. Do you want to create a product that will provide clean water to villages that have only contaminated water sources? Talk to these people at length and get a clear understanding of the issues they face trying to eat, drink, wash and live without clean water.
• Commit to your project. Many people have great ideas that never come to fruition because they get put on the back burner because life in general gets in the way. Once you decide what you want to do, just do it.
• Challenge current thinking. If there are people telling you your project won’t work challenge them. Ask them to explain their thinking and find a way to make it work.
• Don’t get caught up in the same old routine. Innovation requires a person to think outside the box, to find new ways to doing something or doing something that has never been done before. If you have always gone down the safe path maybe it is time to take the fork in the road.
• Think about the long term. Each project has short term milestones but focusing on the long term can yield better results. Imagine how the new clean water system will work, how it will change things for the village for generations to come. Knowing when a long term solution is needed can help create amazing innovation.
Most importantly, do not give up. How many light bulbs did Thomas Edison go through on his quest to invent better incandescent light? His first phonograph recoding was on tin foil and when he died he had over 1000 patens to his name. His life lesson to us is that it doesn’t always happen on the first try, but true innovators keep trying.