Do you think you can be the next great innovator? Are you gunning to be an inventor like James Dyson or Thomas Edison? Do you want to disrupt entire industries like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos or You Tube’s Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim?
It’s entirely possible for you to become a great innovator that changes the world with your creativity, passion and grit determination. But behind these innovations is a simple process that must be followed, otherwise you can end up frustrated and broke.
1. Identify a Big Opportunity – Many innovators created a solution to a problem they’ve encountered that is common place. Dyson couldn’t find a vacuum cleaner that sustained decent suction over time. He did his research, realizing he was not alone. Jeff Bezos discovered that book stores couldn’t stock enough books to offer consumers (and himself) the selection they needed. In every case, there’s a problem and a big opportunity for whoever solves it. This is key to raising any type of funding too. It’s critical that you also have connections, experience or proprietary data to assist you in solving it, otherwise you are at a competitive disadvantage over time.
2. Brainstorm a Solution – Leveraging your experience, data or network, identify novel solutions that completely solve the problem at hand. At this point, be clear on your assumptions (problem, market, requirements, solutions, market reactions to it, etc.). The best solution will likely be simple, yet hard to execute.
3. Prototype the Best Idea – Tom Peters once told me that prototypes are important, because if you have one, someone can point at it and say, “that’s not the right solution!” Without it, all you are doing is talking in generalities. Your prototype might be a working product, a minimally viable service or even a visualization (diagram) of the solution. Southwest Airline’s Herb Kelleher often talks about the importance of his napkin diagram of regional flight routes as the key to recruiting talent and money to his business concept.
4. Test Your Assumptions and Be Willing To Pivot – Many of your initial assumptions about the solution (design, rules, go-to-market strategy) will be off, because you don’t know what you don’t know as an innovator. You are looking for a product market fit, not the best looking or sounding solution. Put the product on sale, give demos to prospects and collect feedback. In Nail It Then Scale It, author Nathan Furr suggests that if your idea is has product-market fit, then 50% of your cold calls will be returned. If your early feedback suggests you are on the wrong track, be willing to dump the solution and return to step two. Eric Paley puts it best: “Don’t love your business idea. Love the problem you want to solve.”
5. Execute On a Validated Idea – By execute I mean finish what you start, obsess over the details and never stop testing your assumptions. Great innovators are first and foremost, exceptional finishers. A few years ago, I made a Skillsoft video explaining my perspective about the innovator’s chief requirement: Execute!