What’s Innovation and How to Be Innovative in Business?
Published on: 28.05.2021
First, let’s talk about inventions. Think about the automobile. The history of cars began when the steam-powered engine started to replace carriages and left horses jobless. It was a life-changing invention both for humans and horses. The latter were no longer forced to toil in all day long in all types of weather. Although animal rights and activism existed at said time, the topic wasn’t a top priority agenda. Hence why did people opt for horseless carriages? Because they were not sustainable.
Horses had been around for millennia. They were used in all sorts of transport and industries to pull wheeled vehicles, carts, wagons, and carriages in public transport, mining, agriculture, and war. The use of horses was beneficial to the rural economy that produced hay and grain, and to equine breeders.
On the other hand, two main issues rose in cities’ streets. Road safety and pollution. Nowadays it might sound ironic that one of the problems that the automobile solved was urban pollution.
First, pollution was caused by horse manure. In New York in 1900, the population of 100,000 horses produced 2.5 million pounds/1,200 metric tons of horse manure per day, which all had to be swept up and disposed of. It attracted rodents and flies while dust manure polluted the air and the water supply network.
Secondly, a considerable number of horses that died every day on the street increased the risk of disease spread.
People at the time were facing issues related to public health, animal cruelty, and road safety due to the high number of street accidents caused by carriages. Hence, the upgrade of the horse carriages to a car was considered a sustainable solution at the time. The steam engine was already used in means of transportation including trains and steamboats. But, the use of the steam engine in a personal carriage was something new and unseen before.
“An invention is an act of bringing ideas or objects together in a novel way to create something that did not exist before.” Encyclopedia Britannica
The car was a major invention. But anything that has improved the automobile since its invention until today is innovation.
Innovation is widely agreed to be the creation of new ways to do something in a more sustainable method compared to conventional ways.
The automobile fueled an economic revolution. It created more old and new jobs. The road infrastructure improved. Hotels and motels were built for long-distance travelers. Before the invention of cars, gasoline was sold in drug stores. Afterward, gas stations started to dot roadsides, and car mechanics became a common profession.
Innovations and inventions share many traits
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Henry Ford
Numerous innovations like many great inventions don’t get widely used or become immediate.
The first and most common reason is that people resist change or hesitate to embrace new technologies.
For example, the switch from the horse-drawn vehicle to the massive use of automobiles took over half a century. At first, it was common that people who had cars, or manufacturers who wanted to make cars became objects of ridicule. People were used to horses and trusted them more than the horseless carriage.
How to convince people to use and trust your innovative product/service?
Speak their language. Sometimes outdated thinking paves the way for a breakthrough.
When James Watt improved the existing versions of steam engines he had to describe the efficiency of his newly invented unit to people in the industries where he could sell it. Watt as an inventor could technically communicate his ideas using smart words, but would people understand him? Instead of mechanical details that would sound like gibberish, Watt went for the simple way. He calculated how many horses his steam engine would replace and coined the term horsepower that we still use today.
Watt was a great inventor who knew how to sell in a way that made consumers feel smart about their choice.
You might have a great innovative idea, but the way how you pitch it to investors or your buyer persona might define its success.
“Have confidence in those powerful and safe methods, of which we do not yet know all the secrets. And, whatever your career may be, do not let yourselves become tainted by a deprecating and barren skepticism … Live … until the time comes when you have the immense happiness of thinking that you have contributed in some way to the progress and to the good of humanity.” Louis Pasteur
Experience has shown that skepticism is a common trend around new inventions. Products that now have huge markets from the ice cubes to the mobile phone were once called novelties that would never last.
Remember that it’s normal for people to be conditioned to not fully believe you. In other words, skepticism could translate into a lack of trust in something new. How to overcome it? Treat it the same way you would do when building a new relationship. If your new product or service is more than just for the sake of profit, but it benefits society too, it will be easier to build a strong relationship with your customers.
Further on, pay attention to skepticism when it gives hints on ways to improve your product, but don’t let it dishearten you.
The right timing
When it comes to an innovative business solution, service, or product that has a potential target buyer audience, the time is always right to launch.
Speaking of launching, the dream to defy gravity is as old as humanity. One of the earliest versions of the parachute dates back to the ninth century. The story goes that inventor Abbas Ibn Firnas used a parachute to jump from the minaret of the Cordoba Mosque in 852 and survived with minor injuries. His invention was ahead of the time because there was no way to use it widely. At that period there were not too many high buildings from where to jump and the action was dangerous and somehow pointless.
Nowadays, the time is always now when it comes to disruptive innovations.
If such a product is considered ahead of its time, people will buy it. If the time is right, that’s perfect. If there are many other businesses in the market offering a similar product but yours solves a solution that they don’t, people will pay for it.
“Invention and innovation appear to be closely related. Many people believe there must be an invention at the beginning of every entrepreneurial success story. “The rest” is then merely a question of “implementation.” This approach may seem plausible, but it’s highly dangerous,” Guenter Faltin says in his book Brains versus Capital.
If you want to innovate don’t strive for excellence. Get rid of the idea that one needs to have a certain education or degree in high tech to be an entrepreneur. If you agree with this opinion, you would enjoy the free entrepreneurship online training provided by the Entrepreneurship Campus. Gain the necessary skills to be a problem solver and test yourself as an innovative thinker and maybe future entrepreneur by joining the 2021 Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition.
This is a good moment to be part of the competition as the voting day is approaching. Join with a sustainable idea or project or share the word with people interested in sustainable entrepreneurship.