New Zealand is producing hundreds of start-ups every year, but a question that always arises when we look at all these companies with solutions to problems is ‘how did they come up with that idea?’.
Experienced entrepreneurs Eric Thompson and Mark Bradford have put their minds together to create a new Master’s programme at Whitecliffe College in Auckland and it is all about entrepreneurship and innovation.
The programme is all about nurturing people who want to start their own business and act upon it and become the next Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Rob Drury or Elon Musk if that suits you.
As a sneak peek behind the new programme set to kick off next year, we ask the real important question for any budding entrepreneur:
How to be innovative and take something that already exists and improve on it?
Step one: The Innovation Culture
There is that common saying “surround yourself with positive people” so in return, one will be positive.
The same could be said for innovation.
Bradford says the reason they created the programme was to allow entrepreneurial people to come together go through the same ups, downs and challenges.
Surrounding yourself with people with the same innovation drive will allow a place for support and a safe area to fail.
Having a safe place to fail is vital in being innovative, why?
“Without that pressure of failure, you cannot be innovative,” says Bradford.
“Creativity and innovation is built on failure.”
Founder of fashion brand Maggie Marilyn, Maggie Hewitt says that being an entrepreneur is a “lonely road’ so having that community to lean on is “pretty essential”.
Step two: It’s a mindset
Consistently failing can tear one’s mindset down, and that is where developing a sense of resilience comes in.
Thompson says that for any entrepreneur and for their idea to work, they must have three things: a sense of self belief, a sense of wellness and stable emotions.
Some people seem to be born with this mindset, but for the rest of us it needs to be developed.
“Challenge is really important to be innovative, but also to be innovative, you’ve got to talk about how it’s going to be brutally hard,” adds Bradford.
Many start-ups are lucky when it comes to their success, but also a lot of start-ups have learnt from their failures and saw it rather as a learning curve than anything.
They call it double-looped learning, the practice of learning from your learnings.
One of the youngest and richest women in the world, Whitney Wolfe Herd, Founder of popular dating app Bumble went through a multitude of ‘learning curves’.
Herd went from being in the founding team of failed start-up Cardify, to being one of the Founders of Tinder and a key part of their success, before leaving and creating Bumble based on her past experiences.
Thompson and Bradford say a major reason as to why they created this course was to “take the luck out of it”.
“Every now and then people do just have a great idea and it goes gang busters, then when you ask them ‘how did you make that work?’, they sometimes reply with ‘I don’t really know’,” adds Thompson.
Step three: Work hard, play hard
Let’s say the idea is there, so what is next?
Play with the idea. Though time is considered a huge luxury, slowing down is a huge value, and perfecting the idea is what Thompson and Bradford want from their future-entrepreneurs.
“That’s what you need to be innovative,” says Bradford.
Bradford says a good example of an innovator who played with his idea is James Dyson, the brains behind Dyson, which at first was a vacuum cleaner provider, but has now expanded its reach to touch on hair dryers, home appliances and so much more.
When you take time with your idea, your innovation will more likely be relevant, timeless and remain to add value to people’s lives.
Nothing is an overnight success story because innovation takes time.
The online marketplace, Airbnb took years before they earned the success they are seeing now; in their early days they were selling cereals to help develop their offering.
Step four: “Ideas are just a dime a dozen, it’s all about execution”
Ideas are only the beginning; the next step is to build on it.
Whether it be looking into business model frameworks, marketing, branding etc., it is time to sink your teeth in and begin building that idea.
“In addition to having a great idea and being creative, it’s vital to have an understanding of how business works. Knowing the value of your product or service and how to price it is equally important,” says Louise Kellerman, Managing Director and Founder of Design Assembly.
Nowadays you could even prompt ChatGPT to create a business plan.
The execution of any idea ultimately leads to one thing; ‘how are you unique in that space’.
And Bradford says the execution process is chaotic.
“You have to like chaos, be comfortable in chaos. If you’re happy in chaos, you will see a way out. If you are not happy in chaos, you will never find a way out.”