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I Stands for Innovation - 6 Skills Today's Leaders Need to Turn Ideas Into New Products and Services
By Bea Fields

INNOVATION! You see the word everywhere today, in every business journal and even on billboards. Everyone is talking innovation these days, because we are all competing to find the next big idea...a way to make our next million!

But what does it take to truly be innovative? See, innovation to me is a bit different than creativity. From my perspective, creativity is thinking of new ideas. The majority of people say that they have creative ideas all day long, but they never do anything with them...they don't speak about them, write about them or do anything to try to get them into the marketplace.

Innovation is a bit is a process which may or may not start with creative thinking. From my observations, innovation is much more related to a creative thinker being out in the world, noticing something odd or something new and asking the question "WHY?" and then "HOW?" She then goes and answers the question "WHY?" by coming up with the HOW and then creating something brand new that never existed. So, the creativity is sparked most often by a question or an observation in life.

I have never met Amazon Founder, Jeff Bezos (who changed my life! I am an Amazon junkie!), but the stories and interviews I have read and heard go something like this.

Bezos is of course one of these computer geniuses who in the early 1990's noticed that internet usage was increasing by 2300 percent a year. At this time, the internet was not really being used for commerce (a small bit but not to a great degree) but he knew it was coming, so he immediately began looking at what type of offering he could make on the internet that would change the way we all do business.

So, Bezos went about reviewing the top 20 mail order businesses and began asking himself several questions such as "What type of business could be conducted more efficiently over the Internet than by traditional mail order Because there were no comprehensive mail order catalogs for books (they would be gigantic), he believed that the internet would be a perfect vehicle to set up an online bookstore.

Bezos began attending book conferences, publishing events and becoming masterful on how to best sell books. This venture selling books online started in his garage (how many times have we heard this scenario about innovation? Starting in a garage or a bathroom?), and here we are today...buying everything under the sun on Amazon. I had to do a little time capsule display a few months ago, and I ordered a bottle of Tang on Amazon, have recently purchased a clock, furniture, and bedding on the Amazon and just saw where I can even buy a lawn mower...they have everything imaginable.

I could probably go on and on about other great innovators like Steve Jobs, whose big motive is to "Put a ding in the universe" or Bill Gates, whose vision was to see every home in the world with a computer running windows (that was going to be possible until Steve Jobs came along and said...I think we can do this better and in a way that is really hot/cool"). But, the bottom line is that these innovators use certain skills including:

1. Breaking up the status quo. Innovators don't accept that what is available is the best option. They take ideas that are already in existence and make them better.

2. Questioning everything. Innovators invest a great deal of time each day asking questions...asking "Why?" and "How?" and "What's next?" By sitting down and writing out some questions that are the unthinkable each day, you can exercise your innovative thinking.

3. Brainstorming. Most innovators are not sitting in their offices alone thinking up ideas. They get out and talk to people and get ideas. My husband, Mike and I are building a home right now, and we have a great crew helping us out. We have hit about 100 snags, and we then go to our crew and say "Okay...we have this issue, let's talk options...what are all of the possible solutions." And, as soon as the best one comes to the surface, we act...but trust me...we are relying on the bright ideas of others to make this home beautiful and truly efficient and effective.

4. Nosy-ness. Most innovators are nosy. They get into doors and look around. They open drawers and look at files and scope out retail shops and look around. They take in everything, and pull it all back in and say..."Hmmm...something is missing, and it is this."

5. Problem Oriented Passion. The majority of people I have met who are truly innovators started their big idea because they quite frankly got ticked off about something not working in life. The positive passion and inspiration are great, but the majority of time, something is missing in life or someone needs something to make life easier, and they go out and find a way to make it happen. Duct Tape was invented to keep moisture out of the ammunition cases (see...a problem was here...moisture was getting into ammunition cases). Because it was waterproof, people referred to the tape as "Duck Tape." Of course, now, we use Duct Tape for everything...I saw a show one night on all of the uses for Duct Tape...including a house that had repaired everything in the house with Duct Tape. You can see some of the uses for duct tape here.

6. Stick-To-Itiveness. I am not 100% sure of the accuracy of this quote, but quote masters say that Thomas Edison said "I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb." Whether or not this is an accurate quote, I have studied Edison enough to know that he was a master of sticking to a project and continuously experimenting so that he could get it right. He did indeed finally discover the magical formula for the light bulb, yet so often, we stop our innovative processes after failing one single time. If you are going to lead the edge in your industry, you have to be willing to stick to it until you reach your new idea comes to life.

If you are a leader or business owner who is struggling with innovation, I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you to see how I can be of assistance. Just send an e-mail to, and we will set up a time to speak.

Bea Fields is an Executive Coach and the President of Bea Fields Companies, Inc. ( ). She is an Executive Coach and the Chief Principal of Five Star Leader Coaching and Training. Along with Corey Blake and Eva Silva, she is the author of Edge: A Leadership Story ( ). Fields' company serves over 1000 international clients and has developed over 25 business and leadership development training programs.

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