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Thinking beyond entrepreneurship: Inspire, Inform, Innovate

By Dr. Anoop Swarup

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Creating a culture of creativity and Innovation

"Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship...the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth." Peter F. Drucker

Innovation is about inspiring and informing people, processes and creating the environment and culture to focus on how to drive innovation, growth and success for your enterprise, for the stakeholders, customers and the society at large. Innovation drives change and is at the heart of any entrepreneurial venture.

In an IBM survey a few years back of 1,500 Chief Executives of more than 1,500 companies from 60 countries and 33 industries found that leaders rank creative leadeship as the most critical factor for the success that drives innovation in enterprises. No wonder, therefore, that in a globalised and digital world of today that is also "hot flat and crowded', indeed creativity is one thing that cannot be outsourced and is a key driver of innovation.

Unfortunately, individuals as also most companies, nations and the society at large lack a systematic approach to building a culture of creativity and innovation. They fail to capture and capitalise on their most valuable resource – human ingenuity and imagination.

Technology, New Enterprises and the Innovation Challenge

"Creating a better future, Requires creativity in the present." Matthew Goldfinger

Advances in technology hold immense promise for developing new approaches and applications that drive change through disruptions and technology innovations – big data, business analytics, business collaboration, cloud computing, mobile technology and the digital and social media.

Enablers and new computing methods for all business and any industry strive to ulock creativity on finger tips and also extra full value from people. Embracing complexity, increasing awareness and agility, and developing digital capabilities are key elements for the changing landscape that define future and shape innovation.

Some interesting technology innovations to cite a few range from a Wall St. Scanner, GrexIt that assorts messages to a common database for all parties to revisit; Adapx Capturx for Excel, where a digital pen and software fills forms and capture; Color Theory for office, a new mood-booster at work so that the right hues in your workspace can work wonders for your happiness and productivity.

A step ahead to foster innovation in enterprises is Offbeat Activities such as Tower Jumping. London-based finance start-up TransferWise sent its staff to a three-day camp in Estonia called Toosikannu, where they did a mud run, zip lined, and leaped from a 33-foot tower. Interestingly enough Uniforms in work place are back. Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg was one of the first to tout the benefits of a personal uniform and he stuck to his guns even when it didn't go over well. The jeans-and-hoodie combo – often lauded as a genius life hack – now has the respect of the business community. Apple's founder and CEO Steve Jobs originally wanted to instate a company-wide uniform as a team bonding technique. Elizabeth Holmes taking a cue from another tech giant, this Silicon Valley rising star wears a daily uniform of black suit and black turtleneck. The Stanford dropout is also known for other minimalist lifestyle choices like not owning a home television.

Innovation for Enterprise: Creating a successful Growth Engine

"Chance favors the connected mind." Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

In a globalised and digitised world of today, customer centric approaches to innovation have become the watch word in most enterprises. Information revolution has helped immensely and the companies are finding themselves well stocked with insights, concepts and prototypes.

The challenge creating a successful growth engine by getting, imbibing and translating them to market continue to prove difficult. Of course, the single biggest innovation challenge remains for entrepreneurs and these transformational enterprises, and it is the effective building, launching, and scaling of new innovations into effective growth initiatives.

As with any new initiative, successes are consistently expensive to build. The risk of losing their value proposition along the way is always there, and ill planned implementation and disjointed efforts may lead to a failed customer response.

The implementation dilemma is worth a consideration as to whether innovators and entrepreneurs should take new ideas and apply their traditional process for implementation or should they first create a unique learning environment for the new innovation from concept to its launch and delivery? Perhaps the later, would unleash a new way of visualizing the entrepreneurial approach by integrating an incubation growth engine to develop a cutting edge creative customer centric success story.

Technology drives and Executes Innovations

"Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and, therefore, the foundation of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared." J.K. Rowling

The role that traditional R&D has for creating and managing the innovation pipeline particularly in new product development is the key to success. There is little doubt that managing the innovation pipeline begins with the generation and management of ideas, their value addition, enrichment and follow-up.

The development of a portfolio of knowledge, applying an unconventional approach to nurturing and developing ideas into concepts and, later as projects will allow for a permanent refreshing of the innovation pipeline itself.

Ideation and innovation management are the initial drivers, implementation and execution is constantly cited as the major blocker to new initiatives. One may well ask an entrepreneur: How are innovation initiatives executed by you? What problems you encountered? What are the obstacles to execution? How can you improve the process?

Lessons from Entrepreneurs: Dare to be different

"Legendary innovators like Franklin, Snow, and Darwin all possess some common intellectual qualities—a certain quickness of mind, unbounded curiosity—but they also share one other defining attribute. They have a lot of hobbies." Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

An important message from entrepreneurs both past and present is to dare and be different. The real mark of an individual is in navigating these challenges and carving out new tangible business opportunities. An entrepreneur requires equal measures of creativity and passion, stealth and noise, engagement and disengagement, but more than anything else, a steely resolute passion, commitment and belief.

Thomas Watson founder of IBM in 1943 said "I think there is a world market for may be five computers." In 1977 Ken Olson founding President of Digital Equipment said "there is no reason anyone in world would want a computer in their home". The lack of far sight even by great people though a matter of irony can be an eye opener for us.

The Global Financial Crisis unleashed a turning point with the change in fortunes, and falling margins. Let's take the example of Worley Parsons where the recent dramatic collapse in commodity prices had the customers under enormous pressure and at the same time the unstoppable trends such as globalization and the rapid rise in the education standards of low cost countries shifted the playing field.

Interestingly enough now it is technology and engineering's turn to be disrupted as traditional offerings are getting commoditized. Perhaps the real issue is creating lean and mean, new and innovative business opportunities. There are always resource constraints, new models that challenge the status quo, un-explored markets and speculative opportunities. There is not always a great recipe for success and success in the true sense may be achieved at times through a world of opposites.

Dr. Anoop Swarup

Vice Chancellor, Jagran Lakecity University

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