Innovation Is the Key to Entrepreneurship

Ninety-three percent of executives surveyed by global professional services company Accenture stated that innovation is critical to their company's long-term success. In the same survey, only 18 percent of executives felt their company's innovation efforts were providing them with an advantage.

That means leaders know they need to innovate, but they don't have the strategies in place to get the results they want. Unlike some other business strategies, innovation does not come with a clear-cut blueprint. You cannot simply go from point A to B to C and then come up with a new or improved idea. Instead, you need to learn the rules of innovation to get the results you want.

Innovation Is a Never-Ending Process

Many people think of innovation in the form of a "Eureka!" moment. Someone has an amazing idea, it changes the world, and that's that. True innovation is actually much more complex.

Innovation comes in several steps. First, there is the idea. This might come in a brilliant flash, and it provides the foundation for the innovation.

Then, there is the solution. This is how the idea comes to fruition.

Finally, there is the transformation. This is when the solution transforms a business or industry.

This can take several years to achieve. In some cases, it even takes several decades. You need to keep going after you come up with the idea. That is just the beginning of what could be your greatest innovation yet.

Ask First, Act Later

Albert Einstein is one of the greatest innovators of all time. Many people believe he spent all of his days working, but much of his time was spent in thought. He's attributed as saying, "If I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would spend 19 days to define it."

That means you need to ask the right questions before you begin the process. You need to define the problem and determine who is best suited to solve it.

Steve Jobs provides an excellent example of this. Jobs is right up there with Einstein in regards to innovators. He is often credited with revitalizing Apple, in large part because of the iPod.

He started the process of creating the iPod by defining a problem. He defined it as "1,000 songs in my pocket."

That brought him to the second step, which was who was best suited to solve it. He knew he couldn't personally manufacture the disk drive to hold all those songs, so he found a disk drive manufacturer who could.

That is how innovation works. Ask the right questions to define your needs, and then make it happen.

Don't Be Afraid of Change

Sometimes, invocations don't fit inside of your clear-cut business model. Do you table the innovation or change your business model?

The most successful businesspeople know they have to adapt their business models for their innovations.

Consider the Haloid Corporation. This company brought copy machines to the masses, but there was a problem. No one wanted to buy them. The company's entire business plan was built around selling these machines.

The president got an idea. The company could lease the machines instead of buying them. The only problem was, that wasn't part of their business model.

Should they forget about the idea and keep trying to innovate inside of their business specifications? This company decided to change its business plan and even its name. Now, you know it as Xerox. It's clear to see the company made the right choice.

If you have a great innovation, don't be afraid to change your business model. It could turn your company into the next big thing.

It's Time to Start Innovating

Innovation is frightening at times, and it can be messy. There will be bumps along the way, but if you're going to have any staying power in the market, you have to engage in it. Roll up your sleeves and find new ways to solve problems. Think outside of that box and prove to the world that you're here to stay.