The fact that innovation is the lifeblood of entrepreneurship is no secret — but becoming a truly innovative entrepreneur is a rare trait that seems to elude many. Innovative businesses don’t just embrace the latest tech, though this can certainly be a major asset in an increasingly crowded business market.
As Rob Finlay, founder, and CEO of Thirty Capital explains, innovative entrepreneurs generally share a few key traits that allow them to continuously disrupt their industries and take their companies to even greater heights.
1. They Are Self-Motivated Learners
“Truly innovative people are never content with what they already know,” Finlay says.
“They are constantly looking to learn new things, including those outside their area of expertise. They are open to new ideas and concepts, because they understand that these could hold the key to unlocking greater results for their own brand. All of this stems from an inner motivation — otherwise, they wouldn’t have the drive to continually learn new things.”
Continuous learning gives innovative entrepreneurs a fantastic opportunity to improve their own skills and knowledge, enabling them to be an even greater asset to their business. This can be especially true in the early stages of a startup, when managing cash flow is of the utmost importance. An entrepreneur who learns how to manage tasks like accounting or HR can save money during the so-called “lean” years.
Of course, being a self-motivated learner can pay big dividends at any stage of the entrepreneurial journey. Continually exposing oneself to new concepts and ideas keeps innovators at the forefront of their industry, ready to lead out and disrupt their industry in ways their competitors haven’t even thought of.
2. They Don’t Remain Focused On a Single Idea
Many of history’s most successful entrepreneurs didn’t stay focused on a single great idea. Elon Musk, for example, doesn’t just run an electric vehicle company. He is also involved in industries as diverse as space travel, infrastructure, and artificial intelligence.
Finlay’s own entrepreneurial journey has taken a similar approach, drawing in companies offering a wide range of specialties under the corporate real estate umbrella.
“Innovative entrepreneurs are always looking for ways to nurture new ideas and interests. In some ways, this is a way of creating multiple revenue streams and guaranteeing financial security. However, these alternative ideas often feed into each other. This can help you incubate new concepts that work for several businesses.”
Indeed, avoiding a single-minded focus on a company can serve as a helpful form of task switching. Research has found that task switching improves creative thinking by helping individuals avoid becoming fixated on a particular idea.
3. They’re Always Looking for an Easier Way to Do Things
Bill Gates famously said, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” While Finlay doesn’t think innovative entrepreneurs are inherently lazy (especially with so many willing to work 80+ hour weeks), he does think this sentiment has some validity.
“History’s most famous innovators were ultimately looking for ways to make life easier for themselves and others. The lightbulb was easier to use than a candle or oil lamp. A car was easier to manage than a horse and buggy. Even less famous examples share a similar mindset — making life easier so we can save time, money and effort.”
For many entrepreneurs, this also applies to how they adapt their own business processes. Finding a more efficient way to provide a product or service to your customers can lower costs while improving customer satisfaction and retention. Applying innovative thinking to make running a business easier ultimately better positions the company for long-term success.
4. They Go Outside Their Comfort Zone
While going outside one’s comfort zone may seem like the exact opposite of making life easier, it is this type of paradoxical approach that is a hallmark of innovative entrepreneurs.
“Every business is an inherent risk,” says Finlay.
“There is a level of fear and uncertainty that comes with any move you make as an entrepreneur. But this gives innovators greater awareness of their market, as well as the drive to be flexible and agile enough to quickly find new solutions when their current setup no longer works. They’re willing to ask the hard questions so they can constantly find ways to improve. Embracing these forms of fear and discomfort is what keeps innovators moving forward without letting their businesses grow stagnant.”
As part of this, innovative entrepreneurs are ultimately willing to fail, because they understand that failure can be one of the greatest learning experiences in their journey. Rather than being permanent setbacks, failures can teach valuable lessons that spark new ideas.
You Can Become an Innovator, too
Even if you feel like these traits don’t describe you in the least, this doesn’t mean you can’t become an innovative business leader. As with other leadership abilities, developing a more innovative mindset is a skill that can be practiced and refined over time.
As you train yourself to think and act more creatively, you will be better poised to implement true innovations that transform your brand and revolutionize the customer experience.