Congratulations. You are living in a golden age of technological innovation. Every night when you go to sleep, there is a chance that you will wake up to the news of another amazing tech breakthrough. It might be a cutting-edge new app, an amazing new device, or some new scientific discovery. The global centers of innovation, including top tech hubs such as Tel Aviv, London, New York, and Silicon Valley, are producing innovative young startups every day. Never before has the world seen such an explosion of knowledge and technology, or such a growth in the number of companies creating entirely new business categories.
So if you’re an innovator, this is the best time to be alive, right? Not necessarily. While this explosion has enriched all of our lives in remarkable ways, it has made it that much harder for innovators to stand out from the crowd. How can you stand out in a crowd of young, hungry entrepreneurs working nonstop to create the next amazing startups?
Don’t play Innovation Mad Libs
All too often, innovators fall into the trap of trying to create the next best x … and simply look for a market need to fill in the blank. Alternatively, they try to create a new version of an existing product, but modify it for a different category. The classic version of this pitch is usually “It’s like x for y.” But in the end, these entrepreneurs are just playing a more grown-up version of the classic kid’s word game, Mad Libs.
True innovation comes not from replicating or re-imaging something that already exists, but from creating something new. Of course, it’s much easier said than done, but you can put yourself on the right track by following a basic principle. Always focus on your idea first – whether the idea is to solve a problem or provide a great experience, take your idea and run with it. Don’t focus on the competition at first, and don’t look at what others are doing. If you feel like your idea can stand on its own, then it doesn’t matter if it replaces something old, or if it provides a similar experience in a new market.
Tech innovation through mash-ups
Of course, innovation isn’t as easy as sitting down, thinking about your idea, and waiting for a light bulb moment. Creating something entirely new happens only rarely. One tool innovators can use is to borrow from the cross-disciplinary school of thinking and bring together different fields of technology and development.
For instance, in the last few years, there has been a surge of innovation in the mobile and health/fitness spaces. With the rise of smartphones, there has also been a tremendous growth in the wearable technology. Many of these first generation wearable devices take ideas and techniques from multiple fields to produce a new experience.
I believe this cross-disciplinary spirit will play an increasingly important role in our world. It is also one of the motivations for the work I am doing on the MIXiii conference in Israel. The event is kind of a mash-up – the country’s premiere hi-tech and bio-med conferences will be under one roof. This gives innovators from two different, and nominally separate industries, an opportunity for them to meet, collaborate, and create.
If you can’t beat them, join them
Now it only takes a single person and computer with Internet connection to build the next revolutionary business. This means that the pool of innovators has grown to include ambitious entrepreneurs from around the world.
Individuals looking to create the next disruptive technology can’t afford to rely on just their own skill set anymore. The most exciting developments happening today are those that combine several categories into one. So in order to succeed, innovators can’t solely think about how to out-innovate the innovators. They should instead think about how they can collaborate with others to create something even more incredible than what they imagined on their own. These are just a few keys for success in this golden age of innovation.