One thing that all innovators have in common is a drive to create something new that will change the way things are today. Whether they set out to become innovators or just to solve a problem, these people have the vision to see a world that is a little different from the one in which they currently live. Often, this drive expresses itself in a desire to read as much as they can about innovation and the future.
Innovators also put in hours of daily practice to become the best they can be in their field, whether they are business leaders improving their communication skills, writers practicing quality article writing to improve their craft, musicians performing gigs in their local venues, or inventors spending hours at the drawing board. If you want to be an innovator, keep putting the time into honing your skills, and check out the following books:
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
First published in 2006, this book is significant for the way it changed the focus on innate qualities to a focus on effort and growth. Time and time again, Stanford psychology researcher Dweck demonstrates that natural ability will only take one so far, and a growth mindset is what will carry someone to levels yet unreached.
As any innovator knows, intelligence is not the only prerequisite to achievement. We’ve all met highly intelligent people who were recognized as gifted in grade school, only to falter in college and completely flounder in professional life. These people didn’t suffer because they weren’t intelligent after all, argues Dweck, but because they didn’t learn growth and effort when their less gifted peers did. This resilience, she posits, is what allows someone of initially average ability to surpass someone with great potential who doesn’t have the habits of hard work.
In order to successfully innovate, one must endure many setbacks. Someone who takes these as a sign that it’s not meant to be, perhaps that they are not capable of accomplishing what they desire because of their own limitations, will give up in the face of these challenges. But someone who is perhaps less talented but more persistent can keep going, finding a hundred ways that won’t work to get to the one way that will. That’s what the growth mindset can do for innovators.
Mastery by Robert Greene
Greene’s Mastery, published in 2012, is a step-by-step guide on how to master any subject, with lessons from masters in varying fields. After finding your life’s calling, something that drives you to grow and improve, you go through several distinct phases to master it. You can find this niche by branching out from a crowded domain until you find you are the only one addressing this topic. Or, you can do it by combining two unique fields for a new perspective into each.
Once you’ve found it, you go through a phase of apprenticeship, in which you dedicate yourself to a practical understanding of your field, uncovering the hidden and unwritten rules, and valuing learning more than earning, for now. This might be painful as you learn to focus on one important thing at a time, and you will feel inferior, perhaps even stupid, in the process. You will learn as much from failure as from success. Even those considered natural talents had to go through an apprenticeship phase; they were just fortunate enough to know what they wanted early in life and had the means to pursue it fully from a young age.
Coming out of apprenticeship, Greene explains, one who wants mastery must transition from submitting to humble learning and into a true innovative spirit. You essentially combine the way you learned in your apprenticeship with other fields you know, with open-minded creativity, and originality to bring you to something new, a distinctive way of doing things that you have pioneered. With flexible thinking, you can see fresh ways of going forward to become what Greene calls a “creative-active”.
Here, you begin to add your intuition to the mix, formed from intensive years of skills and experience. Although nobody can say they have “arrived” at mastery, those who have relentlessly focused on their field for decades will see their field from a vantage point far above the masses who have merely dabbled.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Published in 1937, this book remains a bestseller for its timeless advice of thirteen lessons garnered from the lives of five hundred real life millionaires. It advocates the concepts that your thoughts become your reality and gives lessons for success based on adapting your thoughts to the person you want to become.
Our thoughts are the only thing under our absolute control, writes Hill. Therefore, we must learn to harness our thoughts to become money conscious, and by doing so, we will naturally and with little effort become the type of person to whom money flows. This model works for any type of success. If you can learn to think of your goal constantly and with single-minded purpose, stick with your decisions, and utilize a mastermind group to brainstorm with others, then you can become a success in any field.
Hill writes that one must believe in himself and have faith in accomplishing one’s mission in order to succeed. This faith is caused by constant visualization of the object of one’s desire. If you are to innovate, you must first see the change you wish to create, and then go about creating it.
Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Differing from the other resources on this list, this 2011 book from Eric Ries provides a specific guideline on how to start a business based on an idea. While the others focus on who you need to be, this one focuses on strategies for what you need to do. The main concept from this book is to start a business quickly with the minimum viable product, run with the idea, and adapt as needed. In an environment of “extreme uncertainty,” an innovator can pivot over and over again when not too much development has been spent on a product before going to market.
This book recommends using “semi-scientific” methodology to form a hypothesis, and then test it in the real world by offering the product. The product and selling system is constantly tweaked to adjust to lessons learned and a changing marketplace. The methods used here will allow you to start your own business based on your ideas, and to find mistakes early to they won’t keep your business from growing.
The central message to the book is that learning faster means succeeding faster. The book teaches a feedback loop called “build-measure-learn” in which you build the project, measure the data, and then gather new ideas from what you’ve learned, which enables you to build anew.
Innovating is Being Plus Doing
To be an innovator, most of the work is in who you become. The mind is your most powerful tool, and training the mind is essential to becoming a person who innovates. What you create along the way is a byproduct of who you are. However, you can learn ways to start now and create something bold even when you’re not yet complete.