The Mindset for Innovation

The Mindset for InnovationSEATTLE  –  20 October, 2013. By Kristiina Hiukka

Last week in Seattle the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) unveiled the Bezos Innovation Center. The Center tangibly demonstrates the innovation power of Seattle. The exhibition space is engrossing, entertaining and very interactive. I love it. It is a fabulous place to spend a day for tourists and Seattleites alike!

Seattle is said to be a hotbed of innovation. After touring the innovation exhibit at MOHAI I do agree. Seattle companies from commercial airplanes and coffee to software, electric toothbrush and online commerce have been born in the gray rain of the Emerald city. Jeff Bezos – the innovator of Amazon – and his wife, author MacKenzie Bezos donated $10 Million for the center. At the opening he said there are three traits that he attributes to an innovator: 1) willingness to fail, 2) willingness to be misunderstood, and 3) childlike curiosity.

Most people think of an innovation as a technological invention. However, it is interesting that whenever someone talks about the prerequisites for innovation, they never mention technology. New amazing technologies are rather a result of an innovative mind. Bezos was talking about a mindset. Willingness to fail, willingness to be misunderstood and being curious are a choice how to be in the world. I call it the hard-core soft stuff. There is fourth attribute he also implied when he talked about the fact that innovations are always collaborative efforts. It is, in fact, the ability to communicate and collaborate.

These attributes are not just qualities for an individual person because a true innovation (“a great new idea put into practice, shared, scaled and sustained”) is never a one man – or even a one woman – show. It takes – if not a village – at least a team. Innovation does not happen in a vacuum. So, who’s on your innovation team?

Let’s look at each of these points a bit more closely.

Willingness to fail

Sara Blakely, inventor and founder of Spanx, tells the story how her father – when they got home from school – asked her and her brother what they had failed at. And only when they had a story to tell about how they had tried to accomplish something but failed, was he pleased. There are now conferences like FailCon dedicated to encouraging entrepreneurs to accept failure as a result of trying out risky business and to learn from that. Professional and entrepreneurial women are gathering to share their personal stories of their learnings from their failures around the country. One such gathering was the Urban Campfire in Seattle just a couple of months ago. I recently read how Don Beaver, the CEO of the New Pig Corporation had spoken about his path between successes – seven out his ten startups have failed.

Don Beaver’s insight to how business is done and run in innovative ways is profound and absolutely worth a closer study. He said: “Everything we have done has been risk-oriented, trial-and-error, egg-on-the-face experiences. We found that people are willing to reward you if you can solve their problems and tailor your company to their needs. Profits are going to come if you do the right things. One of the right things is to recognize that needs constantly change. Your major competitor is the time necessary to adjust to the rapidly shifting market. Business is not an end, but a means to serve others. You’ve got to have fun, because it is a game. Life is a game.”

So, again, it’s all about the mindset. How are you choosing to approach your business? And how much fun are you having in between your successes?

Please, share some of your “fail stories” with us here.

To be continued… I will write more about the other points in my next WIN Blog post. Stay tuned!