From Elon Musk to Jeff Bezos, it’s tempting to think that the world’s most successful entrepreneurs are born with an innate ability to innovate.
But according to former space engineer-turned-entrepreneur James Chin Moody, there are models at play in innovation that mean even the most inexperienced entrepreneurs have a good chance of identifying new business ideas.
“Innovation is not a name, it’s the process of technological change,” he told CNBC Make It.
“Innovation is the process of creating the thing, yes, but it’s such a small fraction. It’s the process of taking the thing and convincing someone that they need it,” Chin said. Moody, who has a doctorate. in innovation theory. “The middle process is really what we mean when we talk about innovation. “
Understanding the innovation process
The innovation process can be viewed in three ways: technological changes; changes in the market; and changes in institutions or the way technology comes to market.
The majority – around 80% – occurs in this third segment, with existing technologies reaching existing markets in new ways, said Chin Moody, who co-founded his own company in 2015 based on this theory. The company, Sendle, is a shipping service that rents empty legs to existing courier companies and claims to be carbon neutral.
“When you think about what’s driving some of the major changes that are happening now, or the big business opportunities going forward, yes you can look at new technology, yes you can look at new markets, but it’s often about unlocking existing technologies in existing markets in a whole new way, ”he said.
This is especially important now, as we enter what Chin Moody calls the “sixth wave of innovation,” in which the physical and digital worlds are increasingly interconnected.
“Now you can take something from the natural world and really start to identify its digital counterpart,” said Chin Moody, co-author of “The Sixth Wave: How to Succeed in a World of Limited Resources”.
This leaves many opportunities for future entrepreneurs to make their mark. Chin Moody recommended starting on the market side, looking for a “really painful problem” and trying to resolve it.
“The more painful the better, and the more you can fall in love with this problem the better, because that’s what will serve that motivation for the technology,” he said.
For Chin Moody, that meant rotating Sendle when he discovered a real problem. What started out as a children’s second-hand item sharing platform has evolved into a delivery service after noticing the steep shipping costs that independent sellers and small businesses face.
“This problem was so painful, and it was a problem not only for people but for e-commerce,” he said.
As such, Chin Moody advised looking at the “intersections” between industries and determining how they can best work together.
“Innovation never happens at the center of a discipline, it often sits at the limits,” he said. “Look for the intersection. Look for places where it is a little forgotten, where you can become an expert.
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