Every entrepreneur dreams of having that single moment of happiness where everything falls into place. Many search for their entire careers for that one big idea that will make the difference between incredible success and frustrating mediocrity. Few ever find it and many that do end up crashing and burning along the way.
The truth is that innovation is never a single event and the “eureka moment” is largely a myth. Innovation always involves combinations, so it’s less a matter of coming up with a big idea than it is putting the right ideas together in order to solve a meaningful problem. That’s a process, not a moment.
That’s why instead of starting with an idea, it’s best to start by finding a good problem. Innovation is far more complex than most people give it credit for. It takes more than an idea to change the world. In fact, it often takes decades after an initial breakthrough for its impact to become clear. Innovation is an integrated process of exploration, iteration and execution.
Take a look at any organisation that is able to innovate consistently and it has a systematic and disciplined process for exploring new problems. IBM’s Research division has helped the company continually reinvent itself over decades, long after most of its competitors are long gone. But you don’t need to be a billion dollar firm to explore. In fact, there are a variety of ways in doing so.
The truth is that every idea starts out wrong. Sometimes it’s off by a little and sometimes it’s off by a lot, but it’s always wrong in some way. That’s why you need to constantly iterate and experiment to get it right.
Amazon wasn’t the first Internet bookstore, just like Apple’s iPod wasn’t the first digital music player, but both came to be synonymous with their categories. Sometimes having a pathbreaking idea isn’t enough. You have to be able to make it a reality.
Innovation Isn’t About Ideas, But Solving Problems
Most people think innovation is about ideas. It’s not. It’s about identifying and solving meaningful problems. That’s why simply coming up with a new idea won’t get you very far. You need to “get out of the building,” find a problem that people want solved and iterate towards a solution.