Take Precautions on the Alluring, Sexy and Mysterious Path of Innovation

Creating the right mindset, understanding the reality of invention, double-checking your ego and developing a sense of timing will help you move from having a worthy thought to fulfilling its promise.

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By Mike Watson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Innovators are often regarded as brilliant and their work deemed glamorous. Real innovation, however, is frustratingly elusive and rarely achieved with a singularly inspiring idea.

There's a reason Edison declared genius "one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." Innovation requires determination but that quality is not the deciding factor.

After spending 15 years as an entrepreneur focused on product innovation and market transformation, I've pinpointed the four lessons any aspiring innovator should learn.

Related: Why Fear Is the Entrepreneur's Best Friend

1. Adopt the proper mindset.

Never hope for success. Believe in it. While belief doesn't guarantee success, success won't happen without a core belief that it will.

You'll also need a motivator to drive innovation.

Improving the lives of others is a powerful motivator and far more likely to coax success than merely pure financial incentives. Focusing on your product's benefit to others will inspire those supporting you and bring profound clarity and a willingness among others to improve and modify the original idea.

Plus there must be an unrelenting determination to succeed, accompanied by an acceptance that you may fail at first and an ability to learn from this.

Related: Why Your Business Idea Should Sell Itself

2. Don't be lured by the hype.

The reality of innovation is this: The beginning and the end can be very joyous and empowering, but everything in the middle is extremely grueling. It takes far more than the surreal beauty of an aha moment to fuel an innovator's drive. It requires stamina and perspiration, wielding a sledgehammer to get the job done.

Many innovators aren't prepared to face the difficulties along the way. Emotional pressures to succeed can strain trusted and intimate relationships to the point of breaking. Financial tensions can result in sleepless nights. For an innovator to remain an innovator, these obstacles must be overcome.

The way to defeat these obstacles is simpler than you may think. All it takes is preparation and balance. Though time is stretched thin during innovation cycles, jump on opportunities to connect with friends and family. Once you know that the people who care about you truly support you, you'll realize what's really important and can move past any emotional trauma.

Related: Inspire the Innovation Monster Within

3. Get over yourself.

Be on the lookout for failure's instigator -- an inflated sense of self.

Taking investment funds to realize your idea can fuel a growing ego and initiate an unfortunate chain reaction. An unchecked ego can provoke the inclination for heavy-handed control.

Keep the ego in check by actively seeking and institutionalizing others' perspectives. Ideally, you'll recruit strong advisors and team members, not compliant yes men and women.

Listen and heed their advice. If you're unable to recognize when you should stop or change direction despite the advice of those around you, re-evaluate your perspective. Ideas are all about temporal brilliance. Knowing when you need help and the time to cede control is real intelligence.

4. Remember, timing is critical.

At the end of the day, keeping a sense of timing about your ideas is as important as the process of making them real. Business ideas can have an ideal scope, place and time for their market introduction but this isn't always obvious.

To ensure your idea is introduced at the best possible time, you need an understanding of current relevant trends and how the market is evolving.

The ability to suss out when to bring an innovation to market directly affects success. There are endless examples of innovators with awe-inspiring ideas, but the market wasn't ready. Innovators must study and learn from these examples to avoid similar consequences.

Related: Customers Are Still Slow to Adopt Innovative New Tech. Why the Lag?

Mike Watson

Vice President of Product Strategy, Cree

As vice president of product strategy, Mike Watson oversees Durham, N.C,-based Cree’s corporate communications, brand development and web and social-media channels. He also leads initiatives for its LED bulb. 

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