If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This quote is attributed to Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company. It connotes that innovation is not for everyone. People usually do not think outside the box, but in the end, every innovation is a new thing; it exhibits the supreme accomplishment of the brain.
So, how do you find innovative people and how do you become innovative? We will explore such questions and more in this article.
Most of the world’s billionaires are innovative people. It is believed that being innovative is one-third genetics and two-thirds learning. But what is it that makes these people unique? In a recent study on executives and innovative entrepreneurs, researchers found that the latter have five different skills which distinguish them from executives: Associating, questioning, observing, experimenting and idea networking. Observing, for example, makes you spot problems, gaps and inconveniences, hence the subsequent search for solutions. It helps you capture ideas while examining other people’s performance. I personally find experimenting very crucial. Amazon chief Jeff Bezos once said: “ “If you can increase the number of experiments you try from a hundred to a thousand, you dramatically increase the number of innovations you produce.”
Innovative people seek to mingle with different cultures to learn, get motivated and be inspired. They are courageous and do not take no for an answer; they find solutions and alternatives to achieve their vision.
Dr. May Alobaidy
Unlike the norm, highly innovative people tend to have forms of shared characteristics. You, the reader, can relate to such characteristics to find out if you are an innovative person! First, innovators tend to have large-scale thinking and typically question and analyze things out of inquisitiveness, which stimulates their inventiveness. Curiosity is another characteristic: Steve Jobs once said that “much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.”
Additionally, innovative people seek to mingle with different cultures to learn, get motivated and be inspired. They are courageous and do not take no for an answer; they find solutions and alternatives to achieve their vision. They engage in multiple ventures and pursuits that fuel ideas and creativity, juggling many things while looking for patterns and connections. They are also known for their relentless desire to achieve and change.
It is well known that if an organization or a company stops innovating and generating new ideas, it will soon head toward failure. According to the University of Bern, Switzerland, half of companies that exist today will not survive longer than a decade. In 30 years, only 15 percent of companies will make it, while only 5 percent will reach up to the 50-year mark. Hence, R&D, experimentation platforms and innovation hubs are vital in every company looking for success and expansion. Innovation does not come as one big shot, but it follows many methods for an idea to mature and get executed. Thus, innovation is not a goal, but a way to reach targets. However, we can always say that innovation helps the sustainability and development of an organization.
Therefore, every organization needs to build a strategy for innovation that stands the test of time. Such a strategy must entail improving existing products, developing new products, optimizing revenues and costs, and targeting new markets. This can be triggered by other factor that are not necessarily planned. The COVID-19 pandemic is one such example, where it touched upon many areas related to innovation including tracking the virus, creating protective gear, developing vaccines and treatments, food security, e-trade, education and many more. This unforeseen calamity has created a platform for novel solutions and tactics. Ancient Greek philosopher Plato once said in “The Republic” that “necessity is the mother of invention.” However, we can add to that the saying “opportunity is the source of innovation.”
During the pandemic, many businesses flourished as they saw the pandemic as an opportunity to create and build meeting platforms, delivery services, tech and games companies, pharmaceuticals, health products and online shopping, among others.
Looking at prosperous businesses, we found that durability and reliability are success factors for many thriving businesses, such as Amazon, which depends on aggregating suppliers and customers; Google on easy web search; Airbnb on connecting hosts and guests; Apple and its iPhone operating system and Facebook and its networking. Such characteristics of innovative products that relate to the business make customers stick around for a long time.
It is believed that innovations are categorized by the outcome of uncertainty, as nothing is guaranteed and there is always a risk factor. Many new products introduced to the market were a complete failure while there is always an unpredicted success. Sometimes, hanging on to the old business model combined with the fear of uncertainty to keep constant revenues and avoid risks is a plan for disaster. It is believed that companies struggle to create an economic moat to ensure a sustainable competitive advantage in the long run. The origin of such defensive moats mainly evolves from innovation.
As we approach 2030, where the world’s governments will be judged on development progress towards the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, goal 9 of fostering innovation is among the most important, where innovation and technology are vital in providing resolutions to economic and environmental challenges facing countries worldwide.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently introduced mammoth innovative and eco-friendly projects, including Neom and The Line — a city that will house 1 million residents over 170 kilometers of land that preserves 95 percent of nature, with zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions. It is a new vision of what the future could be, and presents something exquisite and distinctive while building a new model for sustainable living. The Red Sea and AMAALA Projects on the other hand are grounded in sustainability and deliver sustainable tourism and hospitality, where innovation is at the core of the projects, protecting ecological frameworks such as coral reefs, with 100 percent reliance on renewable energy. This is the sought-after kind of innovation where imagination meets ambition.
• Dr. May Alobaidy is a strategic expert. She is the first Saudi woman to be appointed adviser to a minister. She has worked as a senior adviser to four ministers in addition to her role as CEO of the Strategic and International Partnerships and Initiatives Center. Twitter: @mayalobaidy