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Ready to innovate? Start with a mission (not an idea)

December 14, 2016

Working1A new idea pops into your head. You passionately pursue the idea. You ignore the people who say that your idea won’t work. You don’t deviate from your idea because you believe so strongly in it. The day finally comes when your idea is complete and “Eureka!” we have an innovation.

If only it worked like this in real life.

It’s generally thought that an innovation needs to start with an idea. But when you want to truly innovate, you should ask yourself this question:

“What is more important to me: the mission or the idea?”

When the idea is most important, you won’t change the idea when you get feedback about it. You’ll likely invent something that no one wants. But, when the mission is most important, you’ll adapt your idea based on the feedback and keep moving forward. This greatly increases the chances of success because you are learning from your market as you go along.

The mission is the overarching purpose of why you set out to do something innovative in the first place. For example, let’s say my mission is to help the environment. Based on that “green” mission, I come up with an idea for a device that will help people reduce their water consumption, which in turn has a positive impact on the environment.

Next, I run a small customer survey to get feedback on my prototype device before it goes into development. Potential customers tell me that they wouldn’t buy it. So the harsh reality is that my device won’t actually help anyone be more eco-friendly because they won’t use it.

This leaves me with two options (aside from quitting outright):

1) Change the mission and keep pursing the idea. In this case, I’ve essentially become “married” to my idea. My mission is no longer to be eco-friendly; it’s to build this product, regardless of customer opinion. If the market has told me there’s no room for my product, I need to LISTEN to that feedback. The product is doomed to fail.

2) Change the idea and keep pursuing the mission. Good choice! When I keep my mission consistent, I stay true to the reason that I was pursuing the idea in the first place. I’ve learned from the first idea what didn’t work and I’m smarter because of it. I can try to adapt the device and test it again, or come up with another idea that fits with my mission of helping people be more eco-friendly through water reduction.

The average idea will change 13 times before it becomes real and completes the mission you set out on. So if you’re ready to be innovative, invest in your mission, not your idea. Where does your passion really lie? When you figure that out, only then should you start generating ideas to complete that mission.

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