What does innovation mean to me?


Thoughts from Nick Marshall, CEO and Founder - Twistar.

Working in a start-up we deal with innovation on a daily basis, however it’s not always as exciting as it sounds and can, at times, be a laborious task.

Firstly the fun part: Idea generation is easy.

You sit down calmly with some paper, on a peaceful afternoon, without electronic distractions, and you come up with at least five ideas. One of these will really resonate with you. Unable to remove it from your head, you will do some homework and often the worst-case scenario rings true - someone has already put your idea into practice.

Then finally, Eureka! You find an idea that no-one is doing. You decide to implement it and make your dream a reality.

Here’s where the fun stops and the next phase begins: the difficulty of execution.

On your start-up journey, there will be plenty of times you will need to innovate. People will doubt that you can succeed and you will doubt yourself. You will probably be working with no fixed income. Very quickly, you have to become comfortable with risk as a very real concept.

A great quote from John F. Kennedy in September 1962 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas sums this up perfectly for the start-up world:

‘We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard’.

Yes, things are hard. Many technology companies nowadays championed as ‘super innovators’ like Amazon, Netflix, Tesla, Apple, etc. started somewhere. Yet, no one appreciates the huge levels of risk these companies carried while they were evolving.

The big point that I want to make is:

Innovation = Risk

You can innovate as an individual, a company and as a country. Unless you feel risk and the pressure, burden and stress associated with it, you won’t evolve. Risk pushes us further and forces us innovate even more.

So the logical question is how can successful companies concurrently maintain high levels of risk and innovation? The truth is that they can’t. They either plateau or they end up collapsing after an aggressive growth period by failing to make the transition from start-up to corporate.

In some cases though, the most innovative individuals will pivot towards new projects and enjoy further success.

Elon Musk from Tesla went from payments to rocket ships, Jack Ma from Alibaba went from social media to payment processing, Jeff Bezos from Amazon went from e-commerce to AI hardware, even Steve Jobs went from computers to mobile phones.

Innovation to me is a mindset, whilst it is the shortest route to growth it is also the fastest route to failure. I strongly believe that it can only come from the very top.

Innovation is not simply a department or a job title, it is born of a desire to operate outside of your comfort zone.