Innovators are in charge of the present and they also own the future. They make significant changes that increase the quality of our lives on a year-by-year, month-by-month, week-by-week, and day-by-day basis. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and several others, are the innovators behind these vast changes.

Internet, Smart phones, Facebook, YouTube, to mention a few, are innovations that greatly added to the human experience in terms of comfort, convenience, and even affordability. Not only do companies innovate and prosper, we at our individual levels also need to innovate if the financial future must not be stolen from us.

Innovation has become so important now and in the future that it is either businesses innovate or they’re laid to rest by innovators. Christopher A. Bartlett is right when he says that “A company’s ability to innovate is rapidly becoming the primary source of competitive success.”

Broadly, innovation can be classified into two types: incremental and disruptive or radical innovations. Incremental innovation is a series of small improvements or upgrades made to a company’s existing products, services, processes or methods. These changes are usually concentrated on improving an existing product’s development efficiency, productivity and competitive differentiation.

On the other hand, disruptive innovation is the introduction of a product or service into an established industry that performs better and, generally, at a lower cost than existing offerings, thereby displacing the market leaders in that particular market space and transforming the industry.

Clayton Christensen first coined the term. Together with his colleagues, he describes disruption as “a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses … by successfully targeting those overlooked segments, gaining a foothold by delivering more-suitable functionality – frequently at a lower price.”

In this concluding part from our last week’s discussion, let’s see how we can innovate and stand out.

(3) Intensify Your Creativity: Creativity is the ability to create or produce novel and even unique ideas, while innovation is the implementation of that creativity. So, in a very important way, creativity drives innovation. This being so, one strategy to keep innovating is to intensify or increase your creativity. The more creative you’re, the greater your chances of innovation.

You can also increase your creativity by finding a vacuum or a niche that is not yet filled in the marketplace. One powerful way of doing this is to think more of what problem your business can solve in the marketplace or society and think less about what your business should do.

(4) Be curious and ask questions on virtually everything: One of the traits of world’s most innovative CEOs is that they’re good at asking better questions. Hai Gregersen believes that questions are the answer and can give you breakthrough in your most challenging problems. He notes that great questions dissolve hindrances to creative thinking and directs energy in an accelerated manner towards finding the solution.

Asking questions about a challenge or an opportunity can give you a new perspective to it and point out an innovative solution.

(5) Reward Innovative Contributions: It has always been the demonstration of civilized thought that people who make notable contributions are rewarded. There can be annual innovation awards, which can take many forms such as financial, promotion, recognition, and so on. The human mind is a great slumbering power which can be awakened by strategic and monumental reward.

(6) Network: Networks are vital to innovation. Judith Perle writes that innovators aren’t necessarily exceptionally smart people with outstandingly creative minds; bright sparks who think differently. They can be people just like you and me who mix with a wide variety of persons (close friends and others), and who also listen as well as talk.

She suggests that finding innovative ideas is best achieved through an open network, and that interacting with a very wide variety of people, from different backgrounds and with different mindsets, exposes managers to more and more varied and innovative ideas.

In all, we can say that innovation is the fastest and most profitable vehicle to drive into the future, both at personal and corporate levels.