Are You Innovating–or Just Iterating?

Buzz Aldrin Poses next To The U.S. flag On Moon
060280 01: Astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin poses next to the U.S. flag July 20, 1969 on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. (Photo by NASA/Liaison)

The word “innovative” has been completely overused the past past decade or more. Everyone says they’re innovative. Every business and brand, every retailer, startup, consultancy, agency, author, blogger, musician and so on tells you they’re innovative. Truth is most of us aren’t innovative. We’re just iterative–we do similar thing, but with a twist!

The good new is we can become more innovative with the right headset.

Peter Thiel, the genius investor who was an original investor in Facebook, as well as a co-founder of Paypal, wrote a compelling book called Zero to One. Anyone interested in building and leading a company in this digital age should read it. The gist of Zero to One is that Peter looks to invest in companies and ideas that have the potential to go from nothing to something–something that didn’t exist before to something that becomes meaningful tomorrow. Uber is zero to one. Tesla is zero to one. AirBnB is zero to one. Instagram is zero to one. You get the point…

The other side of one is a sea of iteration. Lots of “ones” work to become two’s, three’s and four’s. Companies and brands that make more of the same thing, extend its reach to other markets, develop synergistic branches of the same thing, or buy other companies that do the same stuff. ITERATION IS NOT INNOVATION. If you’re a brand, retailer, startup, consultancy or whatever and you want to keep your head above water, you have to INNOVATE.

Ask yourself this question, what are you and/or your business working on today to solve for tomorrow that was like nothing you were remotely comfortable doing a year ago? Something I’ve learned as an entrepreneur and investor in companies like PreeLine is this, place your bets in the ideas that are crazy enough to be called nuts and/or teams who are smart and gritty enough to make stuff happen. That’s likely to lead to a zero to one innovation.

If you’re the leader of a brand or retailer, business, team or think tank, you need to pull your resources together right now and start to innovate. Here’s the thing; if you’re not looking for moonshots, you’re not innovating. If people aren’t telling you you’re crazy, you’re not thinking BIG enough. Challenge your teams to think big and generate ideas that are nuts. See what happens, put it to action, and don’t squelch the momentum. Ignite ideas with execution.

Don’t turn “great” into “meh”.

Let’s be clear–iteration is not innovation. By the time you iterate, someone is going to innovate you out of business.

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