Two Things Every Successful Innovator Needs – by Thomas Zurbuchen

Thomas Edison created 10,000 failed prototypes of the lightbulb before finally succeeding. The founder of Pandora pitched to 300 investors before finally getting funding. There are countless examples of innovators trying, failing, and trying again before achieving success. What makes them keep going? The qualities that drive innovators to succeed are the same ones that anyone can apply to tackle tough challenges and difficult situations. It’s a mindset that many entrepreneurs possess. And it can be cultivated.

In my experience, there are two qualities that strongly align with the principles of innovation, especially when times get tough: hope and courage.

First, hope is the fuel that drives innovation and change. It brings people together and gives you the courage to keep moving forward day after day. Innovators do not accept the status quo and are hopeful that it can be changed. There is always hope, even though it takes a real effort to see it at times.

The next ingredient of innovation is courage. First, it is the courage to learn and speak up. Imagine how unsteady Thomas Edison’s voice might have been when talking about his idea for the first time. When we utter that first idea, it’s scary because we know how difficult the challenge is and maybe we’re not quite sure yet whether our idea is good or bad. But it’s important to speak up. Left alone, ideas whither. To ignite action ideas need to be shared.

Another important aspect of courage, is the courage to act. Unfortunately, most people do not have the courage to act on ideas. We are not sure when we speak up and we are even less sure when we act. Now, the thing that makes this a lot easier is that great ideas are implemented by teams. This courage is not just the courage of an individual, but the courage of a team.

There is a third type of courage that really matters as much as the first two, and is perhaps the best predictor of success in the long run: the courage to openly receive questions and feedback from others, especially from our intended audience. That turns out to be a huge challenge for innovators, especially for those who seek to change an issue they truly care about. We may get to choose the ideas we work on, but we often do not get to choose which ideas are going to be successful, especially when it comes to social innovation. Truly listening to feedback from your target audience is essential.

These ingredients come together in a cycle that helps create change and spark innovation:

1) It starts with understanding the problem we seek to address. That requires deep engagement and the hope that we can create both small and big changes that will make a difference.

2) Voicing a courageous new idea

3) The courage and resilience to implement this new idea despite all odds, and

4) The courage to receive feedback, make adjustments and, cycle back to 1)

Cultivating hope and courage in the face of tough challenges is a practice. Start by speaking up, sharing ideas, and being open to feedback.

You never know where it will lead, but it will be worth it when you get there!

Comments (3)
  • Michelle

    December 5, 2014

    Hi Tom! This is great article. I hope you will continue to provide us with great insight that you undoubtly have.

  • Darragh McCurragh

    December 15, 2014

    “Winners never quit and quitters never win” is the adage touted by each and every success guru out there. It struck me very early that, when we apply logic and set theory, that does not cover the full one hundred percent of “strugglers” (“… countless examples of innovators trying, failing, and trying again before achieving success …”): not all of those who never quit also win (automatically). In raising false hopes many aspiring entrepreneurs are eventually frustrated. If not, they are know to fanatically hang onto something that’s “dead in the water” right from the start. What makes the difference? As you said – the “… courage to openly receive questions and feedback from others …”. However, if you listen to each and everyone (the “if that would work it’d already be on the market” type of “advisers”) you won’t get far either.

  • Prime

    March 9, 2015

    Hi Tom! This is great article.Big Like! Thanks!

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