How To Innovate Almost As Powerfully As Elon Musk
Updated: Feb 13
Initial success can have its pitfalls, of which complacency is the most detrimental. Luckily, there's a way to avoid it.
As one of the greatest innovators of our time, Elon Musk has taken on new challenges throughout his whole career. Today, he continues to be a creative force, championing new technologies with a worldwide impact.
Musk is a perfect example of someone who doesn't succumb to complacency. Earning his first millions in his late 20s, he could've stopped progressing and passed on new opportunities. However, Musk moved forward.
Tech giant Compaq purchased Zip2, his first company, in 1999. The next pivotal breakthrough came when Musk's new company, X.com, led to the founding of PayPal. Less than three years after its creation, the payment processor was sold to eBay. This happened in 2002, and later the same year, Musk founded SpaceX.
As the figures moved from millions to billions, Musk's business ventures kept going. He went on to become the product architect and, eventually, the CEO of Tesla Motors. In the following years, Musk founded and co-founded several other companies. His enterprises now range from tunnel construction to artificial intelligence.
The main motif in the story of Musk's success is innovation and moving forward. Not satisfied with the achieved success, he always ventured to the next project. That's an important lesson to learn. An innovative mindset goes hand in hand with progress and keeps you away from complacency.
But, can this mindset be developed on purpose? Fortunately, it can. In this article, you'll learn the steps that you can take to adopt an innovative outlook and create a spirit of always looking forward.
Developing an Innovative Mindset
Being innovative can be described as coming up with ideas no one had before you. While people tend to view it as a natural talent, innovation and creativity can be nurtured and expanded. It's a gradual process that requires mindfulness and time.
The best news is, it all depends on you.
1. Have Strong Opinions
A clash of opinions can often put innovation in motion. When you strive to prime your mind for new ideas, having strong opinions that you can exchange with others is priceless.
It's beneficial to develop opinions about questions that matter to you the most. Think about different aspects of a specific issue and all of the pros and cons. When you form an opinion, express it strongly.
You should not only expect a challenge but look forward to it. Strong opinions face strong opposition, and that's the best way they can be tested. While your opinions ought to be firm, avoid becoming emotionally attached to them. In fact, being wrong about a particular matter is a better way of learning than being right.
If proven wrong, your opinion should only grow stronger. It's wise to adapt and adjust the way you think about things. It's a matter of improving rather than discarding the existing basis. When you check your viewpoint against an opposing one, you're taking a step away from being complacent. Developing strong opinions requires constant questioning.
2. Nurture Your Curiosity
Curiosity is an essential part of an innovative mindset. Make it your mission to question things that concern or interest you. Find out all you can about them, and most importantly, listen to what other people have to say.
Looking into a matter from different perspectives will broaden your understanding of it. New insights can happen when you challenge your views as well as opposing ones.
It's possible to develop your curiosity by adopting certain habits. For example, you can write down questions that pop up and set aside time in your schedule to research them. If you're reading up on a subject and run across an unfamiliar term, make sure to investigate it thoroughly.
Complacency often happens when we stop questioning the world around us. It can come as an instinct to hold on to what is known and develop a resistance to moving forward. However, the current state of things is best viewed as an excellent starting ground for new exploration.
Curiosity grows best when working from what you know. It's easier to build links between old and new information, and new knowledge is the best reward for asking questions.
Finally, being curious will better inform your opinions and take you to unexplored terrain. It takes courage to make the most of it and bring the potential of your curiosity to life. Stepping into the unknown is often what inventiveness is all about.
3. Be Courageous
Courage in any enterprise encompasses many things. In a way, it's very similar to innovation. Both require moving away from the status quo, not conforming to what's proven, and rethinking how things are done.
When examining innovation as a remedy for complacency, it's necessary to acknowledge the role of courage. Being complacent can become a cover for the natural fear of the unknown, and soon enough, one feeling begins to feed off the other. That's why it's important to stay brave in adopting new ideas and acting on them.
Just like being innovative, being courageous is a matter of choice as much as a natural gift. It doesn't mean you have no fear of being in a vulnerable position. Rather, courage is choosing to act outside of your comfort zone, accepting the change, and actively searching for new challenges.
4. Open Yourself to Change
Many times when circumstances change around us, we instinctively feel the need to shut them out. But, the world constantly changes, and when it comes to innovation, those that refuse to adjust are often left behind.
There are plenty of reasons why people resist change. It can be the uneasy prospect of the unknown or the comfort of the current state. If you've already achieved certain success, it can also be the growing complacency that's keeping you closed to change.
Depending on how profound the change is, acceptance can be a complicated process comprising several stages. You might start by being in denial and becoming defensive of the way things are so far. And the harder your resistance is, the more likely it is to become depressive once the new overpowers the old.
But, opening to change shouldn't just serve to prevent psychological hardship. If you embrace the new, it can give you an innovative edge. Circumventing around the initial stages of denial, defence, and depression is a conscious effort.
You can decide to open yourself to change. It's a matter of keeping an open mind but also of being prepared to take a risk.
5. Don't Be Afraid to Take Risks
It can be argued that innovation always requires taking a risk. If you're working on an idea that hasn't been tried before, there's no way to be entirely sure everything will work out.
The best way to drive the fear of risks away is to not view the situation as a win or lose scenario. Failure often presents valuable lessons and can be more beneficial than instant success. Being afraid of taking risks is the same as fearing failure, so the fear should diminish if you adjust your viewpoint.
The next step after accepting the risk and the possibility of failure is to seek out healthy risks. True innovation requires you to push your boundaries. If you can make yourself do that, there's no risk of becoming complacent and, subsequently, stagnant.
Remain Innovative and Always Move Forward
Complacency is born from a combination of feelings, most of which aren't very productive. That's why adopting an innovative mindset is the perfect antidote to it. Keep pushing forward, challenging your opinions and beliefs, and progress is bound to happen.
If you’d like to learn more about building an active, innovative attitude, please look at my speaking services. Whether it’s for a private event for your company or a public event, we'll take a deep dive into the subject.