Innovation: Transforming your personal story into actionable gifts to the world
I spent the past years researching into change making and in the past months, I’ve been focusing on social innovation. In a world that largely runs on capitalism, I realised that financial sustainability is as important as purpose and impact. I was particularly drawn to social entrepreneurship as it addresses the factors needed to create long term impact while taking care of the wellbeing of its workers (changemakers). I believe social innovation is where the future of meaningful work can be created.
But what is innovation?
In a recent interview, I was asked about the difference between innovation and creativity. Reflecting on my design background, creativity for me is learning to observe the world — not just the physical world but also interpersonal relationships. It’s a skill of connecting the dots, not just visually but in ways that can draw connections, ask questions and imagine countless possibilities. It’s being open and not thinking within the parameters but instead, spotting the elements within and finding ways to expand on it with a lot of imagination. It’s thinking out of the box, looking at the infinity beyond the circle. Innovation, on the other hand, is closely linked to creativity but I think it comes with that level of understanding of the environment we live in because then, we can identify the problems and gaps that we can work on to innovate. I thought about this further and came up with this diagram.
There are three components.
1) Understanding the self (eg. What excites you? What do you care about? What are you passionate about?)
2) Internalising the environment (eg. social and environmental awareness, worldview)
3) Communities (your interpersonal relationships with others)
These three factors come together to form your passion, motivation and purpose which becomes your personal story. This is where innovation comes into place. What do you care about? What are the problems and the gaps in this world that you see? What are your unmet needs that resonate with people? How can you make yourself and the people around you happier? What can you innovate to improve our social wellbeing? How can you transform your ideas and thoughts of a better world into action?
The importance of knowing your personal story in innovation.
Entrepreneurship and innovation come from passion. I worked for start ups as well as in the social sector. You can’t sustain start ups or social organisations without immense passion, clear purpose and tremendous drive. Resources are scarce, pressure is high, you are responsible for the livelihoods of your employees. When I talk to founders, the first thing they talk about is often their journey. What was it in their life experiences that motivated them to start a company or organisation that serves a certain purpose or goal? Their life stories are integral to their innovation. It’s in understanding the self, the environment and the interpersonal relationships that the energy within crystallises into actionable gifts to the world. Innovation comes from doing things differently. To do things differently means to challenge the status quo, to break the still of water. Change always comes with resistance. You need that much conviction and passion to push through those blockages and overcome the resistance. So, know your story.
What is your personal story and what is it that you can innovate and give to the world?
Entrepreneurship after innovation
Innovation on its own is a skill of understanding the world we live in, internalising our context (socio-economical and environmental influences) to be able to identify the problems we care about and using creativity to solve problems. Entrepreneurship is the next step for your innovation to find its place in the world and create sustainable livelihoods. It is a journey to balance profit, purpose and people. Your entrepreneurship journey starts with your pitch so craft your personal story well because you will need it.
The best innovations in the world improve the well-being of others. With a human centred approach in innovation and entrepreneurship, the impact that you can bring to the world goes beyond just a service or product. It will be able to shift mindsets, cultural values and shape our relationships within society, ecosystems and the environment. A successful business will mean that people value your service or product enough to be willing to pay for it. If your service or product solves an issue in the world and you manage to devise a successful business model that ensures profit, what the business ends up achieving is a shift in the value systems of a society. Put people's wellbeing at the core of your innovation, sell your value system and sell your vision because the world needs it.