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Tue 14 Jan 2014 02:31 PM

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What makes an innovator?

We look as some of the traits which make up a successful innovator

What makes an innovator?

Successful innovators are very often creative entrepreneurs with a yearning to improve the status quo. While each innovator is different, and there is no cookie-cutter version, here are a few traits that most innovators need in order to succeed.

1) Curious

The desire to change what already exists is rooted in curiosity. How can this be improved? What makes it tick, and what can make it tick better? How is it serving people, and how can it serve people better? Why is it making money, and how can it make more money. Observing and learning about a product or a service is part and parcel of curiosity, leading the innovator to think about how something can be driven forward and changed for the better.

2) Prepared for the unknown

The thing about innovation is that there’s not really anything to guide you. Because you’re going into unchartered territories, you don’t necessarily have benchmarks or precedents. The vast majority of innovators find that exciting – a blank canvass to try new things – but you need the confidence to take that leap into new horizons.

3) Passion and drive

For a lot of the time, innovators have to rely on their own will to succeed. There will be people who tell them that their dreams can’t be achieved, or that their ideas aren’t possible, which is why it’s vital to have the drive and motivation to prove yourself right. Your passion and drive needs to outweigh doubts and defy the odds. If you’re not dedicated to reaching your goal, things will get incredibly hard incredibly quickly.

4) Vision

Without a vision, it’s almost impossible to innovate. Of course, it’s possible for innovations to come through luck or accident, but the vast majority of the time, innovation needs somebody to set out their vision for the future and work towards it. An understanding of what’s already in place is critical to be able to dream up what should come next. Once that vision is in place, it’s time to act on it.

5) Tolerance of failure

The chances are, as an innovator, you’re likely to fail. A lot. The chances of getting things right first time are very slim indeed, but that’s nothing to be afraid of. Failure is part of success, and it’s important to be able to accept the hard knocks when they come. Use it to your advantage – learn from mistakes, errors, and failures, and you’ll get closer and closer to what you want to achieve. Take this risks you need to take, and don’t be upset if they don’t pay off right away.

6) Team player

While innovators spend a lot of time out on their own, it’s important they can return to a team and function within it well. This team will help you get to where you want to go. It can be a source of support, feedback, ideas, and of course abilities needed to turn your fanciful ideas into reality.

7) Adaptable

Innovators need to be able to adapt to everything that’s going on around them – especially developments in their chosen sector. If they are beaten to a particular innovation, they need to adapt to that. If an obstacle appears, they need to adapt to that. If the focus of their work changes, they need to adapt to that. Successful innovators don’t usually have a smooth ride, but they have learnt how to find their way around a problem.

8) Marketing acumen

Ideas and technical skills are only part of the story. Innovators also need to be able to sell their creation – to convince others that it’s worthwhile and makes a difference. This could be the case from the very beginning if you need research funding, or other financial support, or it could come in to play much later on when the innovation is ready to be sold. You need to be able to explain to others why your new idea is a genuine innovation, and not just a waste of time and effort.

9) Opportunistic

Entrepreneurs in general are experts at sniffing out gaps in the market. Or indeed, entirely new markets altogether. Innovators are the same. They can sense an opportunity and build on it. Whatever your line of work, or interest, things can be improved. If you sense a need among friends or colleagues, that’s where the next innovation might be found. If you can see the opportunity, and are prepared to investigate solutions, then you’re setting off on another innovative journey.