To Innovate or Not ? – That is the Question

Hello everyone. I want to address the topic of innovation. Now as an entrepreneurship educator and trainer  – and  a Doctoral candidate specializing in technology entrepreneurship, I have learned a thing or two about innovation. A definition I love is that it is the successful exploitation of new ideas.

Now we often teach that to be successful one should innovate and not imitate (which is not necessarily true – but that is for another post). Governments, teachers, trainers are always coaxing and lauding innovation. However, has anyone given pause to wonder if everyone can innovate?

This is a burning question that I have. Is everyone an innovator, with that latent talent just waiting to burst forth at someone’s prodding? Hmm. Maybe we are asking others to do what they simply cannot? Could it be that innovation is a talent like singing, drawing, an aptitude for storytelling and writing? No matter how you prod me I will never make it to Madison Square Gardens singing on key, on pitch and lustily in tune to an adoring audience. Singing is not a talent that I have been blessed with. So too, innovation may be a trait that only individuals with a certain genetic code possess, or it may be a result of nurture, or of brain chemistry. Who knows? No one really.

So as we grapple with innovation as the key to competitive advantage, while discouraging imitation and modification, we just may be misleading entrepreneurs. Perhaps the question is not to innovate or imitate – but instead can you innovate or not. A very big difference!

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