3 Keys to Successful Innovation

Tip #1 – Understand Your Challenge

There is great satisfaction in deeply participating in bringing ideas to real life and turning them into products and companies. It’s a little bit like a mountain, like going on a climb. While remaining enthusiastic, you have to know how difficult the mountain is you’re climbing. A lot of people, in their initial planning, think their challenge is Mt. Sanitas (in Boulder), but it’s actually Mt. McKinley. When you underestimate a mountain, things go wildly wrong. You run out of energy, you don’t bring the right equipment, you bring too much equipment, or you wear the wrong shoes. It’s the same in business.

You have to get grounded in reality and really understand the challenge you’re taking on, whether it’s a new product offering at an established corporation or a totally new business. And if you haven’t don’t it before, get mentors who have. It often takes people so much more persistence than they ever imagined creating a truly valuable business. Part of the reason people underestimate it is they look at other people who’ve had successful journeys and businesses and they assume that, ‘Boy if they can do that, I can do that.’ They have no real sense of how much effort and sacrifice was involved.

Every once in a while, you do see somebody out of the blue that just skyrockets or a product skyrockets, and it was a lot easier than everybody would’ve expected. But that’s not the norm. You’d rather go into it thinking it’s going to be really hard and then be pleasantly surprised if it’s easier than you thought.


Tip #2 – Keep It Fun

It has to stay fun. Even if it’s hard, it has to stay fun. Because it’s hard it has to stay fun. People don’t stay on journeys or missions or adventures when it has become perpetually un-fun. They just don’t. Teams disassemble and break up and people lose faith when that happens. In innovation and cultures of innovation where people are doing things that are hard, you have to have a sense of humor. I think that’s really critical to pushing through the difficulties.


Tip #3 – Don’t Be Afraid To Solve Big Problems

A lot of people think too small. They think, ‘Gosh, I don’t feel like I should be the person to transform industry X.’ Sometimes that means people who want to be an entrepreneur end up starting a niche of a niche of a niche, and they don’t make money and don’t grow.

Because it’s not a big enough idea. It’s in a crowded market, it’s not novel enough, it’s not sustainably innovative, it’s not solving a big enough problem.

Solve big problems.

You’re better off being one of ten companies that succeed in solving a big problem than you are being one of 1,000 companies competing to solve a mid-sized problem or a small problem. Find a problem that’s big enough to make it worth your while.


Final Thoughts

Every project brings its own challenges and satisfying rewards. But these three keys to successful innovation have carried me through a decade of interesting problems worth solving, and I’m looking forward to what the future will bring for Red Idea Partners.

Whatever innovation challenge you’re facing, if you have perspective, humor, and a little bit of gumption, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.