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What exactly does “innovate” mean? And, how do we go about innovating? What’s the formula?

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Many books and articles are devoted to innovation. There are people throughout history who seem to have a knack for innovation—Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, Jeff Bezos, and Steve Jobs, to name a few. They seem to hit the market at precisely the correct time with their new idea or invention. They are the creative ones who have all the great ideas, the dynamic speakers who can express how their ideas will change lives. But, is it really perfect timing and creativity, or did these innovators understand their business, the market, the customer, and the needs of humanity more than the average person?

What are the common characteristics of innovators?

Innovators, similar to dynamic speakers, are willing to take risks. Far too often when we have a great idea, we are not willing to implement it. We’re frozen in place by the thought of it not going exactly as planned. We’re afraid of ridicule, or we’re fearful that there may be a tremendous downside. Therefore, we stay the course.

Innovators are willing to fail. When we think of a plan or an idea failing, we think of ourselves as failures. That could not be further from the truth. An innovator is an insightful, dynamic speaker who shares the truth: innovation is trial and error, testing, missing, missing some more, and then doing it again. Without failing and falling, we cannot get closer to the solution. Without failing, we cannot reach the pinnacle of success.

Innovators are patient. Innovation is a journey of ideas, research, study, trials, errors, fails, and successes. Meaningful and relevant innovations do not happen overnight. They happen because much thought, time, and patience went into the innovation process. Innovation happens because the innovator understands, empirically, the market, the customer, and the need for a new solution.

Innovators know “invention” is not innovation. The creative process alone is not innovation. Engineering something new to work, without human relevance, is not innovation. Timing or market research alone, or even coupled with creativity and dynamic speaking skills, is still not innovation. Not until an idea becomes something relevant does it become an innovation. A product, service, or invention does not become an innovation until it becomes something that enhances or transforms another person’s life, such as the work of a dynamic speaker.

So, how do we innovate?

Look at your business and position as evolving and growing. As a constant journey of learning and understanding with one single objective—to create innovative solutions for your customers that they never thought of but wonder how they ever did without. Have the courage to take risks. Don’t risk losing your job or a client, but don’t be afraid to bring a new idea to the team, especially if it’s something that could change the life of a customer.

Don’t be afraid to fail or be ridiculed. No innovator has ever created a new ANYTHING on the first try. Many life-changing innovations were initially scoffed. The innovator said, “So what. I know I’ve got something special here.” You cannot and will not bring meaningful solutions to the table without a bit of trial and error.

Be patient and hold your course until the solution is found. That means don’t quit. To be innovative, you need endurance and patience. Understand your ideas are not innovations until they enhance and transform another person’s life. Make it your daily mission to enhance the lives of those around you. When you’re at work, make it your mission to enhance and transform the lives of those your serve—the customer.

When courting John Sculley to become Apple’s new CEO, Steve Jobs, as a dynamic speaker, asked him a very pointed question: “Do you want to put a dent in the universe?” Ask yourself that same question, every time you are working on a new project, program, customer service plan, or any idea at all. “Do I want to put a dent in the universe?” Do you want to make a difference in the lives of those you love and those you serve? If the answer is yes, work on your innovation skills.