The Power of the Innovator

graphic of teal and pink face silhouettes with gears and data points overlayed

By Hussain Almossawi

Excerpted from The Innovator’s Handbook: A Short Guide to Unleashing Your Creative Mindset.

The world of innovation and design can be sorted into two camps: those who act upon potential opportunities in the industry, and those who react and respond to changes too late.

In the corporate world, when you are surrounded by a larger, talented team, it’s really easy to develop a sense of imposter syndrome. I’ve seen it repeatedly working in different companies, different industries, and different parts of the world. Some teams truly allow you to shine and thrive; while others push you down and make you doubt yourself, no matter how talented a creative you are.

It often has a lot to do with the way the corporate world is set-up. In many cases, it rewards the outspoken over the quiet ones, and allows egos and politics to get in the way of celebrating great ideas. This eventually pushes a lot of people to take the back seat and play it safe.

Making the jump from reacting to acting can be challenging. However, true innovators take a leader’s mindset when it comes to their designs. They look beyond today’s trends to tomorrow’s possibilities. When you get original and learn how to act rather than react, you’ll unlock the door to even greater innovative potential.

ACTING — “THE LEADER MINDSET”

Taking action is the process of coming up with a unique answer to a problem, either from within yourself or based on new external insights, and leading the charge toward bettering the world. It requires original thought, and often breaks the limits of the accepted. It’s not easy, yet it’s something that we’re all striving to do every time we set out to design.

All creative-minded people would love to lead a new idea and trend, but it’s a much riskier path. It could lead to success…or instant failure.

To lead means to be able to think ahead of current trends. Innovators need to have the courage not only to lead others but also to step outside the norm and declare when they think something can be done better.

The way that you present your ideas is crucial. They will live or die by your ability to deliver them in an engaging manner. You must pursue what you wholeheartedly believe to be the best path, no matter how fully it shatters the norms. That requires considerable self-confidence and vision for what you are trying to bring to life. Fortunately, we have a high risk-tolerance as creatives. We’ll champion the idea over ourselves, showing the world how life could be better through innovative ideas. Seth Godin, best-selling author, marketer, and public speaker, frames it best: “The job isn’t to catch up to the status quo; the job is to invent the status quo.”

The most significant barrier to embracing action, beyond finding that first seed of an idea, is fear. Cultivate the mindset of a leader within yourself, and never stop pushing the envelope.

SHOULD YOU ACT OR REACT?  

Acting and reacting don’t only happen between rival companies. I’ve seen this tug-of-war play out between departments within the same brand! You can’t always forecast what will take off, whether you innovate or reimagine a new product or service. You can certainly learn to see which ideas have potential, but no designer, entrepreneur, or investor knocks it out of the park every time.

You need to act and react simultaneously—act to push for new ideas and solutions; react to the things that inspire you and change your perspective. Action and reaction are the yin and yang of innovation that work seamlessly together. When you both act and react, you can become a great innovator with the vision to see both sides of every process and harness the capabilities on both sides.

NURTURE, NURTURE, NURTURE

In many ways, your ideas are like a child. You have to help them grow up and become strong enough to stand on their own. To do this, you must constantly engage with your project or idea. You need to take the time to ask yourself what needs improvement and how you can improve it. You need to build upon the idea until it’s unique and revolutionary.

This part of the innovation process may seem simple, yet many people underestimate or entirely forget about it. They immediately go into execution mode without taking the time needed to produce something truly remarkable. However, the evolution of an idea is just as important as the original idea. The more you work with it, the better it becomes, and the more it starts to make sense.

About the Author

HUSSAIN ALMOSSAWI is a renowned designer and innovator who has worked across industries around the world creating and consulting for companies, including Nike, Apple, Google, Adidas, EA Sports, Intel, and Ford Motor Company. As a regular keynote speaker on innovation and design, Hussain has also taught at several universities such as The New School. In 2019, Hussain founded Mossawi Studios, a multi-disciplinary design studio specializing in creating memorable, iconic, and bold experiences. He loves blurring the lines between product design, visual effects, and storytelling. He is the author of The Innovator’s Handbook: A Short Guide to Unleashing Your Creative Mindset, which can be ordered here. 

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