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1. Improve upon what already exists

Many people seem to confuse innovation with invention. To innovate, it isn’t necessary to discover something as exciting as the telephone. Innovation is the successful introduction of a new idea to the marketplace. Invention, on the other hand, is the discovery of a new idea. Innovation is fortunately far more attainable.

During the past two centuries, innovation has more than doubled our life span and given us cheap energy and more food. If we project what the world will be like 10 years from now without continuing innovation in health, energy or food, the picture is dark. -Bill Gates, Microsoft.

2. Create clear goals

In order to be an innovative leader, it is important to question why your idea is important to your business. Are you hoping to use the idea to increase sales, improve customer service, or maintain your position in the market? Have an idea of where you want to go in the future and then get stuck in.

Grit is often the single-most predictor of success. Grit is not just about stubborn persistence. It’s also about choosing the right goal in the first place. The unfortunate reality is that it’s not all going to happen. How can we make sure all our struggle and sacrifice will be worth it? Make sure it passes the underwear test. -Jonah Lehrer, author and journalist

3. See the bigger picture

Innovative leaders who are successful at innovation regularly think outside the box. They understand the importance of analyzing their business model to find ways to stand out from competitors. The more world experience they have, the more they notice gaps in the market and the wider their exposure to new ideas, people and perspectives.

I work really hard at trying to see the big picture and not getting stuck in ego. I believe we’re all put on this planet for a purpose, and we all have a different purpose… When you connect with that love and that compassion, that’s when everything unfolds. -Ellen DeGeneres

4. Think about the users more than the product

Current trends and feedback are regularly considered by innovative leaders. They also tend to read widely. They are curious about the world, love learning, and get feedback from their customers because they offer the best ‘hands-on’ experience–both good and bad–of your company. Think about how you can enrich the lives of others.

We believe that if we focus on the users, the money will come. In a truly virtual business, if you’re successful, you’ll be working at something that’s so necessary people will pay for it in subscription form. Or you’ll have so many users that advertisers will pay to sponsor the site. -Marissa Mayer, Vice President, Google

5. Be creative

Innovation is creative, cutting-edge, and is ignited by an inquiring mind. Try this simple approach: ask questions. The answers allow you to begin innovating. Asking meaningful questions helps create clarity and deliver answers. You cannot innovate if you do not ask yourself or others questions. Innovative leaders are brave and embrace change.

Listen to anyone with an original idea, no matter how absurd it may sound at first. If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need. -William McKnight, 3M President

6. Do what you love, don’t just do it for the money

Passion encourages determination and perseverance. When you do something purely for financial gain, it is harder to keep the energy going. When you love what you do, the time whizzes by and you feel fulfilled. The money automatically follows.

I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. -Steve Jobs, Apple Corporation.

7. Believe in the impossible and be willing to fail

Most innovative leaders faced negativity from others, but they believed in themselves and their visions despite this. Start doing and you will be ahead of those who just think and never do. Take action and be willing to fail along the way. This is part of the process. Don’t allow fear and worry to get the better of you.

If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative. -Woody Allen, actor, author, screenwriter, film director

8. Be a “forward thinker”

Need a service that doesn’t exist? Are you looking for a product that you know would be useful but can’t find it? Innovative leaders use these opportunities to identify possible gaps that exist and find a way to bring these ideas to fruition.

 “I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough. -Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo

9. Be people-friendly

Many deals are done in business based upon the relationship between two parties. It pays to be likeable, open, and sincere in your endeavors to secure the cooperation and support from others along the way.

We live in a social world, and it is almost impossible to physically cut yourself off from other people. But, how we interact with others is vitally important to our happiness and success. Getting along with people and allowing them to be themselves, bringing out the best, encouraging them — these are the hallmarks of good leaders. -Richard Branson, Virgin Group

10. Don’t be afraid of change

We all tend to resist the idea of change. To be innovative, it is necessary to embrace change and revel in the idea of the new and exciting changes that propel us through our ever-changing world.

The vast majority of human beings dislike and even actually dread all notions with which they are not familiar… Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have generally been persecuted, and always derided as fools and madmen. -Aldous Huxley

11. Be persistent

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Success is not linear and most innovative leaders have experienced their fair share of failure. Don’t give up at the first sign of trouble.

Innovation almost always is not successful the first time out. You try something and it doesn’t work and it takes confidence to say we haven’t failed yet. … Ultimately you become commercially successful. -Clayton Christensen, professor at Harvard Business School

Innovative leaders have a lot to teach us, but no one has all the answers. Believe in yourself and remember that we are all learning new things every day. Be bold, be brave and act upon your brilliant ideas.

Featured photo credit: Dent in universe/Celestine Chua via flickr.com

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