Seeing the world dif ferently
While putting together this issue and judging Idealog’s Most Innovative Companies Awards, our team was forced to confront our own definitions of innovation. We all know the usual descriptions paraded out alongside the term: transformation, invention, determination. But something that tends to get lost in the conversation – perhaps because of the fiery, relentless passion of entrepreneurs who are chasing their first business breakthrough – is knowing where to draw the line in the quest for the perfect product, service or idea. Perfectionism is a dangerous path to head down because in the end, innovation can’t be forced. As the great Sir James Dyson put it, innovation is that spark that comes from combining creativity with iterative development. And creativity is that bolt of inspiration that reframes your perspective – like the shower thought that randomly hits you at the same time as that delicious blast of warm water reaches your neck. This kind of epiphany rarely dawns on you when slumped over your desk, bleary eyed and deflated, at 12am. So, I propose a simple – and in turn, bolder – way of looking at the term: innovation is working smarter, not harder. It’s having the courage to cast aside the temptation of living the hero entrepreneur narrative who grinds away laboriously, working 80 to 120-hour weeks (here’s looking at you, Elon Musk). Because while working outrageously long hours commands respect from fellow humans, it doesn’t necessarily produce the best product. And while the development of ideas is essential, one crucial part of the innovation equation – creativity – isn’t a neverending fountain we can draw from at whim. It strikes when it wants, so trying to conjure it when close to burn-out is about as helpful as trying to cast a spell. Speaking of spells, I think Big Magic:
Creative Living Beyond Fear author Elizabeth Gilbert put it best when she said, “Perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified. Because underneath that shiny veneer, perfectionism is nothing more than a deep existential angst that says, again and again, ‘I am not good enough and I will never be good enough.’” Within this issue, you’ll find people that have broken away from the standard modes of thinking and are seeing the world differently. There’s no doubt that they’ve put in some graveyard shifts to develop their ideas – as well as had their fair share of angst – but their core business ideas draw strength from their unique perspective on a problem, which in turn, creates a confidence in knowing when to relinquish control and present their idea to the world. From Simon Che de Boer’s bravery on how far to push virtual reality’s realism (page 55), to Shama Lee’s crusade to create a chicken-free chicken product hardly distinguishable from the real thing (page 32), to Brianne West aiming to make the cosmetic bottle industry obsolete (page 24), their approach ensures they are working smarter, not harder. And of course, all our Most Innovative Companies winners (page 98) fit the bill on this. So, as we head into the new year, we hope you leave just enough breathing room for that bolt of inspiration to strike you, too.