In today’s ever-dynamic business landscape, the most successful individuals within a given industry are often the most innovative. But despite this growing trend, many entrepreneurs continue to fall victim to common innovation misconceptions, which, over time, have become accepted as truth.
Entrepreneurs who believe they lack in creativity or have yet to experience an “a-ha” moment are often holding themselves to unrealistic and misguided expectations. Such self-criticism is too common an occurrence and, not only is it detrimental to your business, it hurts your entrepreneurial potential as well.
Here are five lies that have been adopted by the startup industry. If any of the following are part of your belief system, drop them!
Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb; he improved on an earlier design and developed effective marketing techniques. As with nearly every other invention attributed to a single inventor, the reality is that it often takes a team of people to create the final product. The same is true in the business world. Those who seek to protect their ideas from being stolen deny themselves the opportunity to improve upon these ideas and take them to the next level, severely undercutting their potential for innovation.
A post-project payout like a monetary or a prize reward has long been used as a tool to motivate employees to think and act in a more innovative fashion. Unfortunately, incentives such as pay-for-play strategies and monetary bonuses can actually be counterproductive and detrimental to innovation. When employees believe that every action on a project will impact their compensation, they become risk averse and waste valuable time strategizing. And, after all, innovation is all about taking that leap and being unconventional, risking disapproval and failure.
Rigid project schedules and unyielding deadlines are counterproductive to the very processes that allow creativity to flourish. Regarding “the busy trap,” essayist Tim Kreider once wrote, “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence, or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.” Research has shown a relaxed setting allows people time to ponder and develop ideas and helps innovative thoughts thrive.
According to Geoffrey Thomas, a musician and expert on the creative process, “ideas, concepts, images, tunes, and phrases do pop into consciousness for no apparent reason, but scientists have discovered that creativity is mostly conscious, hard work. You put one word after the other or one pencil stroke after the next.” True, ideas often take form in a flash of insight that seems to appear out of the blue. But recent studies tracked the creative process and discovered that this sudden light bulb going off only happens after a great deal of work on the problem.
People are inherently creative–entrepreneurs just need to remind themselves to nourish and unleash creativity from time to time. How? Be curious, ask questions, take risks, be willing to struggle, and, yes, even fail. When it comes to cultivating innovation, people are their most creative selves when they take a break from actively working to solve a problem. So relax a little, let the mind rest, and allow your subconscious to float ideas to the surface. This is how the greatest innovative potential is unlocked and where ideas usually strike.
There’s no doubt that innovation is key for a successful business. Defining the key to innovation, however, yields a more challenging task.
One thing is for certain: Innovation is hard enough to grasp without being restrained by a list of myths in the process.
Whether you are about to embark on a business venture, or find yourself halted along the way, take a step back and ask what’s holding your business back. If innovation is what you seek, you may be surprised at what you find–or where you’ll find it.
—Lauren Bigelow is the CEO of Growth Capital Network and executive director of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. Her work creates platforms and opportunities for entrepreneurs to connect with investors, resulting in $60 million in funding and more than 600 jobs in Michigan over the last five years.