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Where is your next BIG idea? How to foster innovation

Nick D’Aloisio hit the jackpot this week and he wasn’t even playing the lottery. The 17 year-old sold Summly, his free newsreader app he began developing at age 15 to the technology giant Yahoo. The Wall Street Journal reported the price to be within the tens of millions of dollars.

Not bad for a kid who at age 12 taught himself how to create computer programs and founded his own company 2 years ago.

Innovation is a hot topic because the creation of the best ideas is literally available at your fingertips with technology. At the end of 2012, the magazine Fast Company published a list of the most innovative companies and why. The top 5 were:

1. Apple – for its Siri technology, iPads dominating the tablet market and the new CEO Tim Cook is bringing a more generous style to the culture.

2. Facebook – 2012 say more sharing of music and news and a timeline of users’ lives. And according to Zuckerberg, every year the amount of information people share will double. If Zuckerberg has anything to say about it!

3. Google – for diversifying and expanding with offerings such as the YouTube makeover, Chrome has moved past Firefox as the 2nd most popular web browser and Android helped their alliance partners sell more than 250 million phones last year. And Google earned about $4 billion in mobile ad sales.

4. Amazon – for being in it for the long haul…Kindle Fire is the #2 tablet and their streaming video service has been adding programming from CBS and Fox.

5. Square – for allowing merchants of every type to offer easy credit card payments with emailed receipts. The software is literally “plug and play” with seamless integration with iPhones and iPads.

These companies demonstrate a core strength of having an innovative and risk taking mindset. Although innovation offers no guarantee, it remains a key to success. With innovation comes risk and there are huge upsides to risk taking.

Here are 6 key takeaways to tap into your inner innovator:

1. Ask yourself to be crazy – eliminate your fear of failure and sit with the question: “what is the most outlandish business idea I can imagine?” Be prepared, as soon as you list out the answers, your brain will kick in with: “wait one minute, you don’t have enough clout, signing authority, money, prestige and data to support the decision.” You could debate with yourself forever and action is the best way to become smarter. Do you think Apple would have invented the iPad and iPhone without first creating its failed Newton?

2. Keep at it – the old adage “persistence pays off” exists for a reason. You may not recognize how far you have come until you take a break and lift your nose from the grindstone to see … you made it!
3. Follow the breadcrumbs – when you are curious about something, pursue it. Just imagine if Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, hadn’t wondered what would happen if there was an online environment where people could easily connect with and communicate with each other?

4. Break out of tradition – too often organizations are so entrenched in their ways that they lose sight of all the opportunities that exist right in front of them.

5. Embrace others – make sure that while you are trailblazing you don’t leave your greatest supporters in the dust. Break out of the mentality of doing it on your own. Know who your “go to” people are. Identify your greatest champions, those who will thoroughly challenge your idea because they want to see you succeed.

6. Observe what is not working – recognize what needs improvement and then adapt. Try out new ideas by visually conceptualizing via storyboarding and video. Pilot as soon as possible.

To make great strides you also must be willing to never accept failure. Mistakes are just another opportunity to improve and take the next great step in the direction of your goal.

Finally, remember that in order to benefit from taking risks, you must give yourself permission to make mistakes. Risk, learn and repeat.

To make great strides you also must be willing to risk failing. Mistakes are just another opportunity for taking the next great step. Give yourself permission to stumble and fall. Risk, learn and repeat.

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