Innovators are Learners, not Experts
Innovation is the engine that drives business and industry. Innovators come up with better, more efficient, cheaper, less complex and completely new ways of solving old problems or create new products and services which create whole new markets and industries.
Innovators are the trend setters. The rest can only follow and copy them. The leadership however always remains with those who innovate. The question which then arises is: how to innovate?
Every established field of endeavour has many experts. These experts have spent years - if not decades - in acquiring the knowledge, skill and experience which constitutes their expertise. So every field has many experts whose knowledge is based on the work done by many other experts. The whole body of knowledge may - and does - fill many libraries. All this knowledge and expertise does deserve all the respect it can get.
However when it comes to innovation, expertise can be a hindrance. This knowledge and expertise is based on established principles and ways of looking and thinking about things. These established principles and patterns of thinking set limits on the thinking of the experts. They can not think outside the limits that they and their predecessors have set for themselves.
Innovation on the other hand requires creativity and out of the box thinking. It requires the ability to think outside set patterns, to think in new ways, to see in a new light - only then does innovation happen.
Albert Einstein was trained as a mathematician. However his major contributions are in the field of physics. The Wright Brothers had a bicycle business and ended up achieving the first controlled heavier-than-air flight. Henry Ford was the driving force behind the development of the V8 engine. The "experts" were convinced that the V8 engine was an engineering impossibility. However Henry Ford's thinking was not limited like that of the experts and his persistence led to the development of the V8 engine.
Steve Jobs and his team at Apple Inc. launched the iconic iPhone in 2007. The iPhone combines a computer, phone, and camera with great design and ease of use. Experts were no doubt needed for the development of the advanced computer, phone and camera that make up the iPhone. However it was the innovator who was able to conceive the iPhone, spawning a new industry in the process.
Expertise and innovation are both very much required in this world of ours. However where expertise requires depth regarding one subject matter, to innovate one must not become restricted by the "tunnel vision" which goes hand in glove with expertise. Innovators need to converse with and learn from experts from multiple fields while keeping an open mind. Expertise is concerned with that which is part of the past. Innovation builds upon the past to lead us to the future.
Participate in the debate
Let's put this in a different way:
What does it take to be an innovator? Does a person need in-depth knowledge and expertise on a specific topic to break new ground in that area? Or, are innovators the type of people who simply think and act in ways that allow them to innovate in a wide variety of fields?
You may be surprised to learn that innovators aren't necessarily the consummate experts in their field. Instead, they are the people who know where to go to get the authoritative information they need and how to use that information to arrive at astonishing results. Innovators are insatiable learners who are never satisfied until they've gathered all the knowledge they require to achieve the lofty goals they've set.
Linear vs. Lateral Thinking
Innovators are lateral thinkers. Lateral thinking is creative thinking. It's approaching a problem, challenge, or topic from a brand new angle, using methods, ideas, and reasoning that aren't readily apparent to the average person. Often called "out-of-the-box thinking," it's the exact opposite of linear thinking, which stays within certain established parameters and uses a step-by-step approach. Lateral thinking spurs innovation.
Read : Innovation: the Brain Child of Communication and Lateral Thinking
Tapping the Expert Pool
Innovators know how to tap the pool of knowledge that surrounds them by establishing intellectually stimulating and mutually beneficial conversations with experts. Experts appreciate the passion, drive, and creative thinking of these individuals and are eager to share their insights. And innovators know what it takes to use the insights gained to create something completely new.
What does it take to be an innovator? It takes creative thinking, a thirst for knowledge, an ability to communicate and build rapport with the experts, and the persistence and drive to turn the knowledge gained into amazing, world-class discoveries!
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