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Pushing Boundaries of Innovation

April 10, 2013

In late 1890s Henry Ford was trying to get his automobile company funded. Though they already existed; he had innovative ideas that pushed the boundaries of most people’s imagination. He was laughed at and told that people didn’t want automobiles or quadracycles – they wanted faster horses. Many would-be investors mocked his ideas and labeled him as foolish. He revolutionized the world in the early 1900s with the quality, affordability, popularity, and profitability of his automobiles.

By the time Steve Jobs regained his position with apple in the late 1990s digital music players already existed, but were not extremely popular and difficult to manage. Though the very first iPod was clever and beautifully designed; it wasn’t until the launch of iTunes software, that the company revolutionized the way we manage our entertainment. With the launch of iPhone; the company managed to revolutionize nearly every aspect of our lives and the way we communicate with people.

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of a weekend trip to Toronto, Canada. The purpose was a hairdressing convention in which several dear friends were competing to show off their creative, and technical skills in timed events. After spending 8 years in this noble industry; I have a sincere appreciation for all that is involved. During one of the competition groups; it hit me that these talented hairdressers were smaller scale, living examples of the challenges that faced these two incredible business innovators.

I stopped looking at the work as pure creativity and began to see hints of the old saying “two steps forward, one step back” in a different light. They were taking quantum leaps forward – bypassing all sense of reality, normality, and everyday humdrum; knowing that some elements of their designs will likely be adopted by people.

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As their designs unfolded before my eyes; I thought of the above business icons who altered the very fabric of our lives. Each time a model came off stage, attendees quickly encircled them to snap a few up-close pictures of these mini-revolutions in the same way that using an iPhone was once interrupted by interested questions from onlookers about how I liked it, and my thoughts on their getting one.

I am convinced now – more than ever – that the world needs us to keep pushing the boundaries of innovation. Expect some people will laugh at us. Expect others will call us crazy. Expect to come up with several bad designs before getting it right, but push through until you do get it right. Remember that Babe Ruth had nearly twice as many strikeouts as he did home runs!

Here is my advice: Ignore the critics; their job is to criticize your work. Your job is to keep pushing the boundaries of innovation and find the right team to make your ideas come to life.

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