Innovative streak in entrepreneurs- virtue or a vice?

Here is food for thought for all established and wannabe entrepreneurs. Is Creativity and innovative streak in entrepreneur a virtue or a vice? The question is confusing as most of us believe that entrepreneurs are born out of the innovative zeal and the creative acumen they possess. This may not always be true. It reminds me of the famous proverb, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Most of the entrepreneurs are not able to find the best fit for themselves and that quest of the right fit pushes them towards the entrepreneurial journey.

Science & Invention, November 1928. Volume 16 Number 7

There are however, exceptions to it. Let’s begin with a few examples to assess whether entrepreneurs are created due to the creativity acumen they possess or do they acquire creativity and innovative streak while they are on course of their entrepreneurial journey. That leads to the real question as to whether the natural abilities make someone a better entrepreneur or is it a pinch of extra creativity that leads to a perfect entrepreneurial recipe.

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Most of us might have heard that ‘Red Bull’ gives you wings, but for Dietrich Mateschitz, the billionaire CEO and marketing-guru, the energy drink has given far more than that. While Dietrich has been extremely creative in marketing plans and advertising, he has been extremely orthodox in investments and diversification by investing in sports (soccer and Formula 1) and real estate.

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Another example is of Evan Williams of the Twitter handle fame who has weaved magic due to his creative propensity and taking cue from his excellence one might argue that technology based companies are riding high on creativity and innovation. Most of the IT firms believe that creativity is a virtue but is that the complete truth? Evan William said during one of the interviews. ‘With Twitter, it wasn’t clear what it was. They called it a social network, they called it microblogging, but it was hard to define, because it didn’t replace anything. There was this path of discovery with something like that, where over time you figure out what it is. Twitter actually changed from what we thought it was in the beginning, which we described as status updates and a social utility.’

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While Twitter prevailed and became successful, hundreds of other almost identical innovative ventures originating from the Silicon Valley and elsewhere have failed. It was perseverance more than creativity and adherence to business plan together with orthodox financial decisions that made a difference for Twitter. But does that undermine the subtle innovation that is imbibed by this 140 character world compelling the Library of Congress to announce that they would digitally archive every tweet ever made, even with more than 50 million tweets shot off a day? One of my other posts discusses about a few catalysts of innovation at workplace. LINK

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Creativity looks to be a key driving factor and creative entrepreneurs create value through the intangibles and intellectual properties but the above two examples portray that even more important virtues for businesses are Entrepreneurship, Perseverance and Collaboration.

  1. Entrepreneurship- It has to be separated from innovation and creativity. Entrepreneurship is all about identifying opportunities and spinning them off to meaningful businesses. Not many entrepreneurs are made with ideas coming out of the blues. Most of the times the tag of an entrepreneur is hard earned and involves orthodox and quick witted decisions. Another dimension added to Entrepreneurship is Intrapreneurship. An Intrapreneur is one who also has an innovative streak in his/her DNA but uses it for large organization instead of having his/her own business. This is to enjoy the advantage of resources and capabilities and the term has gained in popularity in recent years since the organizations are acknowledging innovation more than ever. Related article from Forbes- Move Over Entrepreneurs, here come the intrapreneurs
  2. Collaboration- It is connecting with like minded people seeking similar opportunities. Monetizing collaborations is even more important and has to be achieved in subtle manners. This explains why social networking platforms are getting more popular day by day and that even the fortune 500 companies are striving to get a bigger pie of this network to achieve sustainability and competitive advantage.
  3. Perseverance- This is by far the key differentiator between success and failure and at times entrepreneurs need to have business models with perseverance factor enshrined in it. Contingency funds and a great network help in the process of persevering through the cumbersome entrepreneurial journey.

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So, getting back to the question again. Is it a virtue or a vice to possess creativity, innovative streak and skills that facilitate continuous innovation? A business will not prosper without these and thus must be claimed to be virtues but a lot of entrepreneurs have lost their way en-route success due to over experimentation and incorporation of excessive innovations. Myspace is one such example out of many others which failed. A lot of inventions fail miserably but are they less creative than others which survived and those that are still basking in glory? Another example is of ‘Concorde’ airplanes which stole the limelight of the world but was a disaster for shareholders and arguably to almost all stakeholders. Innovation is not the only success factor and one of my earlier post discusses couple of other success factors apart from innovation. 3 Success Factors

According to an article from Forbes; “In the late 1990s Hollywood decided to bring digital cinema to America’s movie theaters and rolled it out in 1999 with the blockbuster release of Star Wars Episode IThe Phantom Menace. Seven years later, a mere 5% of the nation’s screens were using digital projection. Why? The studios hadn’t confronted the conversion costs for theaters, upward of $70,000 per screen for all the necessary hardware and software. Finally Hollywood recognized its failing, found a way to subsidize the theaters’ adoption of the technology, and it took off.” Full article can be accessed through the link below.

Related article LINK- WHY INNOVATIONS FAIL

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History is filled with numerous other examples where creativity and innovations were of very high quality but the enterprise witnessed sad demise due to the failure of the entrepreneur in managerial areas like, inadequate appreciation of the ecosystem and inability to properly exploit the opportunities created by these innovations.  Laser disc, DivX, Pager (partially successful) etc. are few of the countless inventions and adaptations that can be discussed in this context. Thus innovative streak doesn’t seem to be enough for entrepreneurial success.

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It would be safe to say that we need to strike a balance, and we need to utilize to perfection the creative juices flowing from within in order to become a successful entrepreneur. It gets tricky with the beginning of the process of monetization of innovation and that is exactly when entrepreneurs need to understand and appreciate the ecosystem. However, there is a very thin red line dividing potent creativity and destructive creativity. I guess, it is the same thin red line that at times makes a virtue a vice and vice versa.

One Response

  1. Life Chap April 15, 2015

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