Encouraging disruptive innovation

I had the pleasure to attend TEDx in Athens, Greece, and present a topic that is dear to my heart: disruptive innovation.

Disruptive innovation is a term used frequently in several industries to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, either by introducing a new business model, or by altering the way the audience views, consume and relates to a breakthrough technology. If invention is the discovery of a new idea, a new process or new technology, innovation is the ability to bring that discovery to the market.

We are living in an age of disruptive technology, which accelerates at a massive rate, the adoption of new products and technologies, allowing smaller companies to challenge current leading companies or existing business models. The resulting innovation or product is something different, something disruptive, but yet more connected with the needs of customers.

And there’s never been a better time for innovators. Looking in the past, we notice that innovation occurs most frequently when the market is down. More than half of today’s Fortune 500 companies were created during the middle of a recession. These companies challenged the status quo, and the good news is that you don’t need to be a large company to do that.

To generate jobs and growth, you will need to foster innovation and nurture entrepreneurship because in the long-run, this is what will really help maintain jobs even in difficult times. There is no secret recipe in becoming a disruptive entrepreneur. However, one can observe a few common ingredients.

Think different – that is the first ingredient I would like to mention, typically known as an asymmetric attack. This way of thinking is all about embracing diversity; diversity of expertise, culture and thinking. There is no one “eureka moment” in disruptive innovation, as it is often a combination of different ideas, and the convergence of different technologies.

Dream big – the second ingredient is learning to believe in yourself and dream big. Focus on why you should do something, the problems you can help to solve and the disruption will come. It might take time, but we are as big as our dreams.

Embrace failure – Last but not least, we need to learn how to be unafraid of failure. All the big names failed more times we could count before they got it right. There’s a well know story about Edison. As an inventor, he made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. Of course, all those unsuccessful attempts finally resulted in the design that worked.

It might be easier to risk under a safer economy, abundant resources and an already existent entrepreneur culture or mind-set. How many of us throughout our lives, had an idea but was afraid to pursue it? That’s when our education institutions could play a more active role towards entrepreneurship. When you are a student, there is no better time to fail and make mistakes, having people helping you to analyse and grow from the experience, failing faster until we get to the right idea, innovation and maybe the next big innovative disruption.

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