I was recently invited to attend a seminar on Intellectual Property Rights. It was illuminating to hear the views of so many people especially on the core aspects of intellectual property (patents, copyrights, trade marks, geographic indicators, and others).
But there seemed to be a fundamental aspect that remained muddled in many of the presentations – the difference between ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’. It seemed to me that many speakers used the term interchangeably. Being a student of entrepreneurship it hit me hard – since the difference between the two terms makes pretty much all the difference between being an artist and an entrepreneur.
Creative – is an adjective to describe one who can come up with original and imaginative ideas to create something
Innovative – is an adjective used to describe one who introduces new ideas, original and useful
The above is important to understand (easier said than done). But if one wants to understand why there is a strong argument for action in entrepreneurship – the above difference in meaning becomes critical. It is by being innovative that one turns ideas into reality. Hence entrepreneurs need to be innovative.
But – Innovative does not subsume Creative!
Many entrepreneurs (innovative) build on the ideas of others (creative) and in some cases successfully institutionalise them. We remember them for a long time through their products / services / organizations.
If you are one who teaches entrepreneurship, it is important to clearly highlight the difference between the two; help aspiring entrepreneurs appreciate the importance of the latter; and teach them the skills to identify the former. This is not the only thing that makes one an entrepreneur, but definitely eases the pressure on them to be creative at any cost.
Think about it!
Ideas are not so valuable; at least that’s what most people seem to say. While ideas in their nascent form are not so valuable, at some point they turn tremendously valuable. Booking Bus Tickets online is a very common idea with almost no value, but redbus.in was tremendously valuable – Where does the difference lie?
An idea becomes valuable when we turn ideas into commercially viable and valuable products or services. Turning an idea into something that others can experience, interact, use, and benefit from, is what makes an idea valuable. The more number of people who value a product or service, the more value attributed to it. Hence it is not surprising that with demand for a product or service, the value of the company grows. This actually means that the value of the idea keeps growing with certain actions effected on it. Is that what we mean when we say – execution is more valuable than ideation? In fact both pieces are important, and putting them together is what creates value!
The entrepreneur’s job is to constantly make an idea valuable. This means, he or she has to take up a lot of ideas, and attempt connecting them to opportunities. Once there is a good “Idea to Opportunity Map” (I2O Map as called in the book), it is time to design it into a potentially viable business. The reason to turn it into a viable business is to first ensure that the product or service actually has real demand. Once the company tests the viability of the business in the marketplace, it is then important to start looking at increasing the value of the idea. The way to increase value of an idea is to look at increasing demand for the product. Good Need / Opportunity identification along with well implemented innovative solutions create the possibilities of entrepreneurial ventures. Once this is done, the one thing that can truly catalyze this possibility is good quality marketing.
Ideas by themselves in their nascent form have no value. But when ideas are transformed into products, services or solutions that people love, they instantaneously become valuable. Only innovative and entrepreneurial people can give the idea its due.
Think about it!
Over the years of having taught entrepreneurship to a variety of audiences, one thing that continues to surprise me is the increasing frequency of this question’s occurrence. “Should my idea be unique to be successful?” It seems to me that this ‘myth’ has almost assumed propositions of ‘truth’ that it takes a lot more effort to help aspiring entrepreneurs see through the illusory nature of this untruth. This belief has also resulted in a disproportionate amount of entrepreneurship efforts spent on ideation and creativity. While they are important for the success of a business they are not enough for success of an enterprise.
Looking at the innumerable businesses that succeed and fail, it is becoming fairly clear that the ones which succeed are not necessarily the ones that are unique. In fact it seems that the more common the idea the more the chances of success. And the more unique the idea the more the chances of failure! While it seems quite contrary to popular belief, almost any level (even minimum) of analysis clearly indicates that uniqueness has nothing to do with possibility of success. In fact if there is one thing that it relates to, it is the possibility of failure.
This leads us to the real question that many entrepreneurs want to actually ask – “If I share my idea, won’t people copy it?” While it seems like a worthy risk to worry over, it is a fall out myth of the previous one. During a recent program at Indore, at the end of the three day interaction, one of the aspiring entrepreneurs came out in front of the class and confessed: “Apart from all the other learning during the three day workshop, my biggest take away is that I need not worry any more of any one copying my idea. What I realized is that it will take even me a lot more hard work to turn my own idea into a profitable business. This now gives me enough mind space to actually stop worrying over the loss of my idea and start speaking more widely about it. It also gives me the absorption capacity to seek input on my ideas from as many useful people as I can meet.”
I not only thanked the participant for his honest declaration but also appreciated him for his courage to do so. Was this trait itself not indicative of his entrepreneurial nature? Why should we worry so much over ideas themselves? After all was it not a wise man who quoted, “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
So the next time you hear entrepreneurs spending their time worrying over the loss of their ideas, think again – is there really a loss over loss of ideas?
It doesn’t even need sunlight to for it to happen! It disappears just like how a drop of water disappears when it falls on a hot plate. Many times I wonder if there is an inherent connection between the rate at which ideas appear and disappear.
The truth about losing ideas has been reiterated too many times by artists, researchers, entrepreneurs and by everyone for whom ideas formed value. In today’s knowledge driven economy ideas are almost the new form of currency. Just because ideas have become valuable has not changed its inherent property. They still appear and disappear in our minds at a fast pace. Those who have managed to learn the skill of capturing these ideas before they disappear are the ones who have the potential to become successful.
In a recent panel discussion that I moderated I heard this thought of learning to capture ideas being shared as a tip by a young and successful entrepreneur. He reiterated the importance of learning this skill while sharing couple of instances from his own success story and how he learned it the hard way.
After so many reminders, let us not wait to miss good ideas to learn this skill!