Innovation has been a constant - and increasingly faster exercise - for visionary businesses, especially now that technology evolves at such a breakneck pace. Innovation means an opportunity to differentiate and be that much more competitive in your industry. It’s not enough to have one revolutionary idea one time, however; companies need to keep up the momentum. That’s why having at least one innovation expert on staff is crucial.
How do you identify an innovation expert? Do you have one on staff already, or do you need to hire out specifically for innovation? Not all innovation experts are deep engineers or scientists. Their mission is often to simply push the company to perform at its best and set a higher bar for success. Both Henry Ford and Steve Jobs brought different forms of innovation to their industries, but no one can dispute that they drove change on a broad scale - and directly or indirectly led to the creation of valuable new intellectual property.
Here are five traits commonly found in innovation experts’ mental makeup that could be what sets these individuals apart.
The 5 Traits of an Innovation Expert
They are constantly learning
Albert Einstein once observed, "[L]ogic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." He understood that knowledge is limited to what we currently know. Although ambitious entrepreneurs often cite that many successful business leaders were college dropouts, it isn’t because they were innately gifted with knowledge. Rather, they were hungry for discovering and testing new solutions. According to Bill Gates, he never just “knew” what he was doing. He said that after he dropped out of Harvard, he didn’t feel like he missed out on knowledge because “...whatever I needed to learn, I was still in learning mode.” He is known for his insatiable sense of curiosity, continuously seeking out new information to support breakout solutions to big problems.
They show higher levels of persistence
Numerous studies of entrepreneurship and innovative tendencies show that persistence is one of the top characteristics that differentiate true inventors from others. Invariably, if you’re venturing into uncharted territory, you’re going to make mistakes. But persistent innovators see failure as opportunity and keep going. As Thomas Edison is known to have said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Innovation experts help to ensure the team “fails fast” and keeps going, inspired by constant application of new learning. As Henry Ford said, “[f]ailure is simply an opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” This is why even failures - things you tried but didn’t work - can nonetheless be considered valuable “trade secrets” having helped you along the innovation path. The invention disclosure process with its attendant review stages is an important element for innovation experts to manage.
They offer detailed explanations of their work and reasoning
Innovation experts understand that doing the work of clearly articulating the steps and logic behind inventive ideas pays off later. It helps the organization make faster and better decisions about whether the idea aligns with business goals, whether the idea is patentable or should be protected in some other way, and speeds up the patent application process. Good records also help to preserve legacy knowledge and knowhow. This helps ensure continuity and momentum should someone leave the team, traceability in the event of misappropriation or IP infringement, and can even add value in a merger or acquisition. It is also true that innovators and inventors know that approval of their ideas hinges on whether there is enough detail to support the value of their work.
Organization is a key to their success
Maintaining records of innovation work in banker boxes, file folders, spreadsheets and multiple databases is a recipe for disaster. Innovation experts understand the financial and temporal costs of making a literal mess, and don’t allow disorganization to hinder progress. Centrally organized, secure and searchable innovation data helps ensure that valuable knowledge doesn’t slip through the cracks. What does not appear important to one inventor might very well have significant potential in the eyes of another. And speed is key in a competitive global knowledge economy. Well-organized data that’s easy to find removes friction from every workflow and makes you that much more competitive and successful – internally as well as in your markets.
They use tools for efficiency
Innovation experts know that inventors should not be bogged down by administrative activities. It is crucial that knowledge workers spend as high a percentage of their time as possible working on what they do best. The most successful companies in the world apply systems, tools and technologies to increase innovation productivity. A good invention disclosure tool alone can increase the quantity and quality of disclosures by orders of magnitude; it can do this by making it easy for:
- Scientists and engineers to internally search the work of colleagues across the organization and find pieces in a puzzle they’re trying to solve
- Inventors to submit their ideas
- Managers to review submitted ideas
- Leaders to act on vetted ideas
Why Stop at One Innovation Expert? See What It Takes to Build a Whole Innovation Culture
Being more agile, precise, and informed about the direction of your innovation strategy is key to staying competitive in today’s market. If you can align your whole workforce to take on an innovative mindset, your company’s ability to produce new (and profitable) ideas will significantly improve. Learn how to build an innovation culture at your organization by downloading this free eBook on the subject.