THE 5 OBSESSIONS OF INNOVATORS
In our turbulent business climate, we all seek new pathways to growth and success. Yet winning can be elusive in these times of dizzying speed and ruthless competition.
Too often, once great organizations become intoxicated by their own success. They fail to adapt, fail to innovate, and then simply fail. To avoid this trap, we must exploit our most powerful weapon: human creativity. Its the one thing that can’t be outsourced or automated, and has become the currency of success. Cultivating creativity and innovation is leadership job #1 if we want to enjoy sustainable growth and progress.
Having studied hundreds of the most innovative people in history, I’ve discovered five core beliefs that transcend industry, geography, and upbringing. These patterns are easy to understand and can be implemented directly into your daily work to drive growth and success:
1. Get Curious. It turns out that curiosity is very much the building block of creativity. The more curious you are, the more creative you’ll become. Try asking questions that begin with “why”, “what if”, or “why not?” When you ask these questions, it forces you to imagine the possibilities and explore fresh approaches.
2. Crave What’s Next. It’s easy to think success is a permanent condition, yet that has been the downfall for far too many organizations. Instead, we must lean into change, embracing new approaches rather than clinging to old ones. Too often, we overestimate the risk of trying something new but underestimate the risk of standing still.
3. Defy Tradition. Family traditions can be wonderful, but traditions in our professional lives can be deadly. Blindly doing things in a traditional way has been the downfall or far too many companies and careers. Instead, when you find yourself approaching your work in a traditional way, examine your approach carefully and see if you can flip it upside down.
4. Get Scrappy. We often believe our ability to innovate is tied to external resources such as money, headcount, or raw materials. The truth is, the real building blocks of innovation areinternal resources: Grit. Determination. Tenacity. Resilience. This is why startups are able to do more with less and upend industry giants.
5. Adapt Fast. Most breakthroughs only materialize through a series of setbacks and mistakes, failures and pivots, tweaks and micro-innovations. Rapid-fire creativity, practiced as a daily habit, can be far more important than the potency of an initial ideal. Experiment, learn, adapt. Rinse and repeat.
Creativity is a skill – a muscle – that each of us can harness to drive our companies and careers to the next level. Push the boundaries, shake it up, explore what’s possible. Inject innovative approaches into your everyday work, and the results will be stunning.
Josh Linkner is a 5-time tech entrepreneur, NY Times bestselling author, venture capitalist, and professional-level jazz guitarist, and highly sought after keynote speaker.
Interview with Josh Linkner
What is the message you hope people take away from your presentations?
Audiences leave my talks energized and empowered. They are fired up knowing that they have the capacity to inject creativity into all areas of their business in order to drive meaningful results. And they are empowered by learning specific techniques and business takeaway value that they can put to use immediately. Attendees come away fully understanding the importance of creativity and innovation in their organizations, and are given a specific framework for how to deploy this natural resource effectively.
How are your keynotes Unique?
I am not a typical “speaker” whose main accomplishments are speaking. I founded, built, and sold three companies before I turned 30. My 4th company grew to 500 employees and $100 million in revenue before I sold it to a large private equity firm. I now run a venture capital firm in Detroit, Michigan and am also a professional jazz musician.
I bring a very unique perspective of someone who has actually put these ideas to work, who has overcome deep adversity, and has used creativity to win at the highest levels of business. The presentations include zero “bullet points.” Instead, they are rich with vivid imagery, energizing video clips, humor, and captivating story telling. Audiences are entertained, fired-up, and given specific tools to expand their own creative abilities.
Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration?
Those that forge new ground inspire me. Business and community leaders who dare to do the never-been-done-before. I admire those that disrupt the status quo and shatter conventional wisdom. This ranges from innovators like Elon Musk and Tony Hseih to jazz musicians like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. I am inspired by those who break the mold and have the courage to turn things upside down.
Why is creativity so important in the business world?
It has gone from being a nice-to-have to being mission-critical. As many of the competitive advantages of the past have become commoditized, creativity is the one thing left standing. The one thing that can’t be outsourced. The one source of sustainable competitive advantage. In a world of dizzying speed, exponential complexity, and ruthless competition it is the natural resource that can be the difference maker between prosperity and mediocrity. Between staying alive or getting crushed by the competition.
Can you give 3 tips for companies who wish to create a creative business culture?
- Think Small! That is, think like a startup. Imagine how a new startup in your industry would take on the giants.
- Encourage courage – celebrate ideas rather than punish them. Remove fear and your team’s creativity will shine.
- Get curious – ask more questions and challenge conventional thinking. The more curious you are, the more creative you’ll become.
Is there a link between your passion for jazz and the work you do?
Absolutely! Jazz is fundamentally about improvising, which is the exact same demands we face in the business world. Things are moving too quickly to follow an operating manual and expect to win. Jazz musicians adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, thrive on ambiguity and essentially innovate in real time. Developing these skills is critical for business leaders today in order to drive their organizations forward in these challenging times.