We often picture innovators as geeks who seclude themselves from the rest. Walter Isaacson begs to differ. For him, innovation is a product of interplay of varied kinds of knowledge coupled with the audacity to grab opportunities by believing in their potentials.
In his book “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,” the prolific author and executive discussed critical elements of innovations as demonstrated by iconic figures including Ada Lovelace, Bill Gates, Charles Babbage, and Steve Jobs.
Below are critical tips to innovate and generate ideas, along with other takeaways from the book:
1. See the world metaphorically
Albert Einstein first entertained the concept of Relativity Theory upon observing the sight of two trains passing each other from opposite directions. Inventors of computers did the same when visualizing complex processes involved in circuit interplays and computers operations. In fact, the idea of computer networks and subsequently, the Internet emerged from the metaphor of spider webs.
Metaphors provide a venue for understanding, developing, and explaining complex ideas or abstractions through simple and practical associations. When innovators try to generate ideas, they look at the world not only for inspiration but also for validating intangible concepts.
2. Commit to long hours of work
It is still true. An innovator spends a considerable portion of his or her time in seclusion. This is especially true during the earlier phases of the entire process of innovating. While inside the niche, the innovator spends long hours obsessing over details and perfection. He or she can also alternately seek out inspirational and understanding from the outside world before refining the idea whilst secluded.
Spending long hours of work translates to initial phase of the innovative process, characterized primarily by the early incubation of ideas.
3. Embrace teamwork or collaborative work
But to say that all innovators spend most of their time in solitary confinement is quite a longshot. Isaacson argues that accepting the idea that individuals solely shaped innovation is a distorted view of reality.
No man is an island according to a proverbial. True enough, the likes of Steve Jobs Sergy Brin and Larry Page Google owe their accomplishments to their respective teams. Behind the unprecedented success of Apple and Google are people banded together to achieve organizational goals.
“Innovation comes from teams more often than from the lightbulb moments of lone geniuses,” said Isaacson in his book. “This was true of every era of creative ferment.”
Through teamwork, an innovator perfects his or her idea not through his or her own effort. Rather, an innovator generates a compelling, feasible, and perfect idea by assembling people from diverse backgrounds to create a figurative market place of ideas.
4. Believe in the potential of your idea
The researchers involved in the conception of critical computer peripherals—specifically the mouse input and the visual display output—have certainly made modern computing possible. However, they never got a chance to grow beyond conception.
Steve Jobs later took off from their concepts. He became widely credited for propagating the use of these peripherals.
However, when Google founders Brin and Page tried to offer Yahoo! their search engine code for $1 million, the then search giant did not entertain them. Later, the founders did not shelve off their innovation and obviously, they succeeded in believing in their idea.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The book The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution provides a sweeping narrative of the men and women who have made the digital age possible. In a writing that combines individual biographies and general history, Walter Isaacson produced a compelling book that talks about the simple process behind successful innovations.