I love my job.
But in the startup business, there is a tendency of throwing words around without actually backing them up. This is the case with a lot of founders trying to attract investors by claiming to be innovative and groundbreaking, but they don’t seem to know what that is or what it takes to earn that descriptor in this day and age.
However, I do. Making startups truly innovative is my bread and butter, so let’s see what innovation really means for a startup.
There are a lot of ways to define innovation. In fact, I could write a whole article just on how to define it. But the most distilled description I can provide for startups is something new that people are willing to pay for.
There are, of course, different ways to achieve this, and different fields one could achieve it in. You might innovate with a product or service, a process, a business model, or with a material like metal or plastic. We can also look at the level at which your idea “changes the game.”
Small incremental changes, or a change to a small part that reaps great benefits.
Examples: Adding sensors to car breaks to detect movement and proximity. Or adding the rear-view camera for driving in reverse.
Radical changes to everything compiling a single concept, forcing you to rethink and question its extended purpose, relevance and future.
Examples: Developing the self-driving car. Or developing the first electrical car. After many had tried, only Tesla, i.e. the company that had never done cars before, took the risk of using optic wires to control acceleration, something unheard of before them and categorized as “crazy” by other companies already set in their ways.
Habits are enemies of innovation
Like I said earlier, I love my job. Startups learn to work in a fast-paced, small-scaled and agile way. And there’s nothing like the rush of jumping onto that “idea train” and helping it get to where it needs to be. The reason why startups are so prone to innovation is because their environments are flexible enough to not only allow it, but nurture it.
When working for the same company for 20 years, you get into a habit. You get on with your tasks almost mindlessly, there’s no space for new things. A founder I worked with had gotten a developer from a large corporation, and he was actually amazed at how slow his work pace was, despite his supposedly having great experience and talent.
I wasn’t surprised. Smart developers are willing to let go of things, just like entrepreneurs. If you are creating something with value, of course you should stick with it. But if after pouring in time and effort, you still can’t find the value in it, it’s ok to let go and move on to something else. Traditional corporate work doesn’t usually allow the liberty of taking risks, but it’s essential to truly innovate. Fear of failure not only stops you from learning or succeeding, but it also makes you fail at trying.
I hope you liked this week’s article. If you are an early-stage startup, you can check out my other posts and courses on startup tech management. You might also want to take a look at my course The best technologies for your startup to make your startup innovative, or you can schedule a mentoring session with me if you have more specific questions or needs.