The following quote by Wayne Gretzky is one of my favorites when it comes to my job.
“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
It is a simple philosophy that made Gretzky arguably the best hockey player of all time. Everyone else followed the puck, while he got in front of it.Gretzky’s quote is also a great definition for innovation in the marketplace. Those who look ahead and spend at least part of their time projecting the future become leaders in their field. Everyone else is a follower.But it isn’t always easy. Here are three characteristics of leaders and innovators.
1. Work Hard
Being a trend setter isn’t easy — if it was, everyone would be doing it. Leading takes hard work.Consider it this way: Just doing your job takes a full work week. If you want to also become a leader, you are going to have to put in extra hours.It is the simplest, and yet the hardest factor for innovation.In his autobiography, Wayne Gretzky wrote:
“All I wanted to do in the winters was be on the ice. I’d get up in the morning, skate from 7:00 to 8:30, go to school, come home at 3:30, stay on the ice until my mom insisted I come in for dinner, eat in my skates, then go back out until 9:00. On Saturdays and Sundays we’d have huge games, but nighttime became my time. It was a sort of unwritten rule around the neighbourhood that I was to be out there myself or with my dad.”
From the ages of 3 to 12, he was spending as many as 10 hours a day on the ice … the results speak for themselves.There is no substitute for hard work.
2. Keep Learning
Another one of my favorite phrases is “continuing education.” Innovators never stop learning; never stop researching their vocation.Some industries push continuing education, but not many and certainly not enough. Most of the time the drive to learn has to come from inside.Make sure you know and read the leading blogs for your industry. Learn the new trends and technologies. Study and practice new techniques.This goes back to working hard … you have to carve out time to gather the information you need for No. 3.
3. Experiment and Don’t Fear Failure
The greatest roadblock to innovation and progress is the phrase: “this is the way we’ve always done it.”It is the motto of the follower.Innovators, on the other hand, experiment with new techniques to try and improve their own efforts. There is always something you can do better.Sometimes the experiments work; sometimes they don’t. But you can’t be afraid to try!Last year, I started three new blogs on three different platforms. None of the blogs survived to the end of the year … but I learned invaluable information about new technology. It is how I learned to build news websites while the rest of my colleagues were trying to hold on to disappearing newsroom jobs.It is how Thomas Edison figured out how to make the light bulb practical — by thousands of unsuccessful experiments.“I haven’t failed,” he said. “I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
It isn’t complicated
The funny thing about being an innovator is that it is actually pretty simple. Just continue to work hard at improving through the application of new ideas and techniques to the problems in your industry.Solve one of those problems and bingo, you’re an innovator.But remember, simple isn’t the same as easy. As Edison said: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Don’t miss your opportunity to be an industry leader this year.