Why is it Essential for Entrepreneurs to be Innovators
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Invention and innovation are two closely allied words which are often misinterpreted, especially in the context of entrepreneurs. Both come from the Latin novus, meaning new and akin to the Sanskrit word nava, but the difference between them is clear with a few examples.
Alexander Graham Bell was patented for inventing "the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically". But when the same invention was used by the Bell Telephone Company to sell more than 150000 telephones in the US in less than a decade that was an innovation.
The Bell that had got the patent was an inventor, but the one that was the founder of the Bell Telephone Company, which would later become AT&T, was an entrepreneur and an innovator. Transmitting sounds over telegraph wires, though was one of the most landmark inventions of all times, didn't add any value to anyone's life anywhere in the world. But telephone did. So, the entrepreneur Bell was an innovator and that's what every entrepreneur should be.
Entrepreneurship is not about what someone does. It's about how it's done. Innovation is also about "how", not "what". Invention is the "what" and innovation is the "how".
The most legendary example of how an entrepreneur is all about innovating - "how" you do things and not "what" you do - is the co-founder of Apple. Steve Jobs was not an inventor in the true sense of the word. He was an innovator par excellence and of course one of the most successful entrepreneurs we have ever had. The iPod and iPhone and even the iMac were not the first products of their kinds. MP3 players had been around for quite some time. So were smartphones and PCs. What made iPhone a rage was not what it did, but how it did, how it changed the overall experience of using a smartphone.
Taking cues from the above examples, here are the salient points of a good innovation.
1. It should Add Value and Change the Way People Do Things.
From Graham Bell to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg - all were successful entrepreneurs because their innovations changed the lives of billions of people. Google has brought the world's wisdom and information to our fingertips. And Facebook has revolutionized the social network.
2. It Should Be Simple
Google's products - the search engine, YouTube etc - and Facebook too can be used seamlessly by anyone of any age, background and education. Ease of use and simplicity are the key to good innovation.
3. It Should Touch the Lives of Maximum People
Blackberry satisfied both the previous two points - it changed the way the corporate world sent emails and was very simple to use too. But still, it failed eventually because it couldn't touch the lives of say, the autorickshaw drivers in India. On the contrary, all cab hailing services all over India are built on top of Google products. Thus, it had the maximum widespread impact.
4. It Should Make Perfect Business Sense
It goes without saying that innovation must have business sense and generate ROIs. The entire dotcom crash happened because the innovations needed the sort of internet penetration and usage which took almost a decade to see the light of the day. The current e-commerce boom is nothing but the re-packaged dotcom of the late 90s, with more business sense.
5. It Should Have Positive Impact on the Society and Environment
Finally, innovation should have a positive impact on the society. If more and more people start feeling that Facebook is more a social menace than anything, a day may come when people will stop using it. Entrepreneurs need to evolve and innovate continuously so that they don't become obsolete or create a negative impact.