This week I’ve had a couple of people approach me about YMX. One said, “I thought about doing that but you just got to it first.” The other person said, “I thought about doing that but I just didn’t have the time.”
Really, both are saying the same thing. I’ve heard it hundreds of times before. What I translate that to mean is… “I wish I had thought of that.”
We’ve all done it. We’ve watched Donny Deutsch or 60 Minutes and we’ve thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Then when we meet someone who invented something or started their own business (and succeeded) we think to those moments and jealousy swells. Then we say something really odd like, “If only I had the capital I could have done the same thing.” They just smile and nod.
It’s time to let you in on a secret… 99% of the best innovations in the world come out of the same formula. So if you’ve got a great idea. If you think you’ve got the next Google. If you think you’re ready to be the one who answers the innovation questions instead of asks them. Are you ready to see if you’ve got what it takes? Here’s the formula.
Innovation = hunger + brains + guts
Innovation: You know it when you see it. It’s a hot seller or a great idea or that little thing that makes life easier somehow. The best ones are the most obvious. But how do I get there?
1. Hunger: As I’ve said before, 90% of the population is lazy. They strive to be mediocre. But a small percentage of people wake up one day and say… “I’m just not making it the lazy way. I want something else in my life.” Maybe it’s a bill that has to be paid and you don’t have the money? Maybe its that you live in a small house and you are having a kid and need a bigger one? Maybe you need a raise and the only way the boss will take notice is if you come up with a great money saver? Hunger… either literal or figurative… is the root of most innovation. I’d even add a healthy dose of desperation to show you how important hunger is. Very few fat cat companies invent the iPod or Google or Berkshire Hathaway or Facebook. If a company has to hire research and development people, paying them a fat salary, to invent something… that company is not hungry. (Prime example: The auto industry) But when your company CEO and a core group of people have an “oh crap, we’re all going to go bankrupt” meeting… then you’re hungry enough to invent the iPod.
2. Brains. Let’s face it. There is a reason why most innovations never make it to the marketplace. They may be good ideas. But the person who is hungry enough to innovate something may not have the brain power to see if its a market-worthy idea, know how to capitalize the idea, or even how to make the idea a reality.
In actuality, the best thing most innovators can do is find the right people to pitch the idea to. YMX would have never gotten past a proposal on a Word document if I hadn’t bounced the idea around with some really smart youth ministry folks, technology folks, marketing folks, and business folks. All of that bouncing around is totally free… and totally made the difference between YMX being a good idea and YMX being just another failed start-up. Trust me when I say those people saved YMX from my incomplete thoughts. The reason we are alive as a company today isn’t luck… it was hunger + brains + guts. Sometimes “brains” also means recognizing that your innovation may be cool, but it isn’t profitable enough to make it. Having brains means knowing the difference between a great idea and a great idea I can live off of. And having brains is getting the right people on the bus before you leave the station.
3. Guts. When I get those people who come up to me at the booth or IM me or talk to me after church… I can tell they don’t have it in them. They may be hungry enough to innovate. They may have a MENSA mind. But they are wimps when it comes to making their ideas a reality. The last component is the differentiator. If you want to take your great idea to market. If you’ve bounced that idea around and gotten a million thumbs up. You have to pull the trigger and go after it with all you’ve got. It takes guts. Don’t have guts? Innovation isn’t for you.
I love watching Donny Deutsch because there is a common thread with his guests. At some point most of them marched into their bosses offices and said, “I’m leaving to go do this, I quit.” Most of them had no income to fall back on! They were hungry enough for that innovation that they were willing to be more hungry to make it happen. They were smart enough to know that they couldn’t really innovate at night after a hard days work. And they knew that to make their idea a big idea worth a lot of money… they’d have to put their life on the line. It takes guts to do that. Do you have what it takes?
So, if you’ve got the next great idea… and I think you do… now you know. It doesn’t happen by mistake. It isn’t an accident. It isn’t “dumb luck” or “good timing” and it’s never handed to you on a platter.
Innovation = hunger + brains + guts. Get it done. The world is waiting.