Innovation doesn’t have to strike fear in us.
When someone brings up innovation, many people roll their eyes. The word innovation has long been a buzz word for a grandeur product or idea. Because of this, when we think about it and if you’re honest with ourselves, innovation sounds out of reach. Someone else should be tasked with innovating the next iPad, the next 4kTV, the delivery drone.
But innovation doesn’t have to strike fear in us—it should inspire us! There’s no limit on age of innovator, no requirement on magnitude of the idea, no one holding us back but ourselves.
I get it, we aren’t all Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla. But we can be like Margaret E. Knight (invented the paper bag), Ruth Graves Wakefield (created the chocolate chip cookie), or Mary Anderson (tired of wiping off the windshield of automobiles, so she created the wiper blade)—all amazing people who innovated by being themselves, seeing a need and creating something of value.
Here are a few other examples of people, just like us, who innovated when faced with a problem:
Louis Braille: In 1814, there was a boy who was accidentally blinded in one eye at age 3, then lost sight in his other eye at age 5. A decade later, at age 15, this boy invented his own reading and writing language made of raised dots. His name was Louis Braille and his invention is now used around the world, giving blind people the priceless gift of reading.
Frank Epperson: In 1905, there was an 11-year-old boy who mixed soda powder with water, stirred it with a wooden stick, left it on his cold porch and it froze. That was the start of the popsicle and the boy’s name was Frank Epperson.
Innovation is an opportunity for advancement—and a foundation of society!
These are great—but what about somebody more recent?
Abbey Fleck: In 1993, there was an 8-year-old girl named Abbey Fleck who loved making bacon. When her family didn’t have paper towels to soak up the grease from microwave-cooked bacon, she wanted to figure out a better way to cook it. After a little trial and error, she came up with the Makin Bacon, a microwave-safe stand that allows you to drape bacon over it as you cook. The bacon is able to crisp up while the bacon fat pools in a bowl underneath it. Her brilliant idea helped make her a millionaire as a teenager.
Alissa Chavez: In 2014, Alissa Chavez was upset about stories of children who died when they were accidentally left in hot cars. At age 14, she came up with the idea of the Hot Seat, which is a small cushion with a sensor that’s in a child’s car seat and connected to their parent’s smart phone. If the smartphone is more than 20 feet from the cushion and the sensor still senses pressure on it, an alarm sounds on the phone.
What did all these people have in common? Innovation. They looked at something not as it is, but how it could be. That is innovation at its root. Innovation shouldn’t be something feared. It should be looked at as an opportunity for advancement—and it’s a foundation of society!
Our problem is we too often think about innovation in a narrow sense, as a massive breakthrough that’s going to change the world. We think of the computer, automobile, smartphone or drone as innovation. And they are…however, innovation begins before the product exists. Innovation begins with the thought of any new idea or process, and it can come from anywhere! This new idea or process can be small or large, planned, well thought out or just a lucky accident—like the popsicle! It can be a simple improvement to an already good design, process, webinar, podcast or article layout. It can be taking that paper bag Margaret E. Knight created and putting it on your textbook to give it a protective layer because you’re sick of paying a fine for a wrecked book at the end of the year.
How do you know if innovation is needed? Let’s answer that question by asking a question. Have you ever been frustrated and asked why something is done a certain way? Have you ever thought “there must be a better way to do this?” That is the beginning of innovation! If your idea or improvement can add value, help fulfill a mission, serve your customer better or save time and energy, it’s worth discussing. Don’t let a preconceived incorrect notion stifle your innovation.
You can be an innovator. You already have the tools, the ideas and the ability—now put it into reality.
What part of life do you find yourself saying “there must be a better way”?
Image via Daniil Silantev