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How to Become an Innovator

Woman looking back from table

June 13, 2017

By: Jimbo Roit

The word “innovation” is so overused in today’s world that its meaning is on the verge of extinction. Fortunately, we can recover the core principles by thinking in terms of innovators—the people who make things happen—rather than innovations, which are simply the results of innovators’ successes.

Some innovators have an innate flair for thinking creatively. Others develop a passion for disruption over the course of their life experiences. Of course, many innovators are a combination of the two; they have a natural tendency to question the world around them and draw inspiration from their observations. But how do you truly become an innovator?

Question the Norm

The two questions all innovators constantly ask are, “Why are we doing it this way?” and “Is there a better way to do it?” While most people live for the routine, innovators question and often even fear it. Every breakthrough starts with a desire to do something different.

Be Different

Speaking of different, don’t be afraid to be exactly that. Innovators accept that they might have to be the oddball at times, especially if they truly want to turn their ideas into products or experiences. But, with being different should come a willingness to allow others be “the same” if they wish. Don’t equate differentiation to arrogance or isolation. Everyone has their own motivators, and for many, comfort is more desirable than disruption.

Let Simplicity Happen

Throughout history, the most impactful innovations have been the simplest. Even in an age of mind-blowing technology, the ideas that are changing our lives—like ride sharing, grocery delivery, and things of that nature—seem almost elementary.

I run an events company here in San Diego, and our most popular theme is a weekly Friday sunset party on the beach from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sounds like something that would be a dime a dozen in Southern California, right? Wrong. Somehow, I’m pretty sure it’s the only party on the ocean, at sunset, on the entire West Coast. The concept is so simple, but no one else was doing it, which is what has made it successful. My point in sharing this example is that you don’t have to drive yourself into deep thought to come up with a viable idea.

Be a Mentee

A memorable milestone in any innovator’s career is when their idols become their peers. And the best way to get to that point is to seek mentors who can help you develop and refine your ideas. One of the great things about the Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) Master’s Program at SDSU is that they match you to a mentor with a long track record of success in leadership. You can learn from them, bounce ideas off of them, and ideate with them.

Invest in Yourself

Lastly, innovators are risk takers. You’re willing to invest time and money in your ideas; you should be equally adamant about putting time and money into your development as a person, as a professional, and as a leader. The HTM Master’s Program helped me immensely in turning my visions into blueprints and actions. Learn more about the program here.

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