Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What it takes to be an innovator?

One can say without doubt that; innovation is a crucial part of the DNA for the tech companies. Innovation is nothing but an idea around existing or new principles, techniques, often and a solution to a problem. This post is about “what it takes to be an innovator?” This is just a brief outline of what I think helps grooming oneself to become an innovator.

Most of us in Information Technology understand that innovative companies take the edge over the others and secure a prominent place. This directly applies to people as well, after all a company is made up of people. So if you are to secure your spot and achieve, you should seriously think of contributing towards innovation. Then you must prepare yourself to become an innovator, so you might be interested in this post, “what it takes to be an innovator?”

Well, to start with one needs to develop the inquisitiveness in them, trying to embrace new things and digest new information. Often people are reluctant towards change, this also means NOT thinking in new ways or alternative approaches. The previous statement may be irrelevant to some, but believe me they are important. The core mindset of a person matters the most when it comes to innovation. Challenging current principles, current trends & techniques; for good, will spur the innovativeness in you.

Work on what you think new is indeed new. You have to work on the following basics, first and foremost the problem definition, your new approach, any prior solutions, any competitor approaches, any proto-types, any proof of concept. The latter two, pro-types and proof of concept are NOT really required for a patent or a defensive publication. However when you want to extend your idea in to a product and capitalize on it, then it is certainly required. Let’s not talk about the business angle here and stick to the topic itself.

So does it all happen if you start embracing change and being inquisitive? Unfortunately it is not all that is enough. So what more one needs to do?
It is not possible for anyone to know everything in any given area, so if you are interested or wanting to know more on a particular area, you need to develop the connections with people who are considered to be the subject matter experts. Your subject matter expert could be your boss, peer, professor or anyone you find from internet. They should be able to give you insights on the things that you are not familiar with or give you more understanding, thereby increasing your knowledge in the area.

Be crazy, be weird, both in good sense, when I say this I can get your reactions!

Get inspired, read biographies if it helps, fortunately this world has left us with so many people who could be good examples, right from the father of modern science Galileo Galilei to anyone living in the present day.

Do not have an attitude, that a solution to a given problem will always be complex, since the problem is complex. It is not required that every new idea need to be a technology breakthrough in every sense, hence do not discard the ideas even if they sound silly. Take a moment to put it down somewhere, revisit them when you think more on that topic, this is a repetitive exercise. Investigate more on the idea, talk to people see how do they feel about your ideas, notice for their awe’s and contempt’s in their expressions. Do not feel embraced if someone finds your idea silly or simple.

Look for similar ideas, in web Google patent search is a good place, patent storm, and there are many others. But watch out! do not over search, so as to get side tracked or influenced by other ideas. You got to be really careful on your web searches, as these might indirectly influence your ideas without your knowledge. You cannot help it, the brain works that way, the more you try to get away and undo the learning you happened to do while you did your searches, the more you get close to them. So again I would say watch out. Worry about the duplicity/novelty to an extent, but do not over kill yourself with all possible searches. Leave some job to the patent attorney, who is supposed to do that as part of his/her job.

All right enough of the thought process, now try to learn what is an intellectual property (IP)? What is a patent? What is a defensive publication? If you are an employee of a company who does all these IP things, then it is easy for you. Try to get hold of a patent holder or a patent attorney and ask them for the process to be adapted. Tell them that you are interested to know on how to pen down your ideas. Often companies will have an intranet site to publish the ideas, have guidelines and examples for you to start. Also the companies focused on innovation, will have training sessions to help their employees innovate. If you do not fall in the above category, then there is hope outside too. There are third party legal firms that do the patent/publishing for you; of course it comes with a cost.

Last but not least, be persistent, this is not something new to hear or say. To be good at something you really got to be good at what you are doing, agreed? By innovating or putting your new idea, you are essentially thinking something that was never thought before or was never conceived before. And this does not come with a day’s work; you need to be persistent in pursuing and working on your ideas. Wear the hat of an innovator and think that you are set to do new things, this attitude definitely helps.

Finally to develop the habit of innovation, (habit - I would like to call it that way) you better keep yourselves entangled to some community, or forums or groups that will keep your spirit of innovation alive. This will instigate in you to read new things and help you develop deeper understanding on the area of your interest.

Ok having all said, these are just my recipe to be an innovator, nothing guarantees your success except for your own.

Now go write your own destiny and change other’s, by your innovation!


Harish said...

Pretty good thought... Appreciate that dude.

Nikki said...

Good thoughts - I liked your comments about not making things "over-complex" Simplicity is an underrated concept! Also agree on putting in the time - I am a big beleiver in knowing what you are talking about. Good Work!

Bhavin Shah said...

Nice blog dude !!

Titan said...

Hats off to your inovative thoughts!!. Crazy mind of mine never thinks in your angle ;-(.
It's really an inspiration for someone to acheive further in your field(IT).

The Ultimatum said...

Inspiring Ram ! Keep up the good work !!!

Sanju said...

Well written Ram !
Quite inspiring..