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Kacharagadla Featured Article

The Five Characteristics of Successful Innovators

There is not much agreement about what makes an idea innovative, and what makes an innovative idea valuable. For example, discussions on whether the internet is a better invention than the wheel are more likely to reveal personal preferences than logical argumentation. Likewise, experts disagree on the type and level of innovation that is most beneficial for organizations. Somestudiessuggest that radical innovation (which does sound sexy) confers sustainable competitive advantages, butothersshow that “mild” innovation – think iPhone 5 rather than the original iPhone – is generally more effective, not least because it reduces market uncertainty. There is also inconclusive evidence on whether we should pay attention to consumers’ views, with somestudiesshowing that a customer focus is detrimental for innovation because it equates to playing catch-up, butothersarguing for it. Even Henry Ford’s famous quote on the subject – “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said fast…

Why Geeks Make Great Entrepreneurs

Once upon a time (in an era that appears to have expired in the 1980s), the concept of entrepreneurship evoked the slick and polished high society types. MBAs with impressive connections, country club status and high-end wardrobes were the order of the day for prospective founders of a successful business. It may have been a gradual transition over the past 15-20 years, but in business, we’re increasingly living the Revenge of the Nerds.Here are just a few of the reasons the more introverted, scholarly and, yes, even “geeky” members of society are some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs.
Geeks are willing to seek adventure. Think about Star Trekepisodes. Or The Big Bang Theory. As good luck would have it, geeks bring this same imagination and energy to work. It’s never been done before? No problem. Geeks relish the process of coming up with a new idea, or at least formulating known ideas and elements into a winnable plan.
Geeks can be captivating storytellers. They may be uncomfortable in a tuxedo, but can be highly at ease, educational and entertaining as panelists, industry columnists (ahem) or as speakers. The next time you encounter a geeky entrepreneur, ask him or her about their latest project, and watch their eyes light up. You may learn more than you bargained for. As you consider some of the world’s greatest “geek leaders”—Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, as a few familiar examples—their imagination and passion come through loud and clear.
Geeks have “street cred” in the science and technology space. Our current business climate is increasingly acknowledging that it’s okay to be different—even good to be different. The message of the Scorpion show (based on the life of uber-genius Walter O’Brien, with a reported IQ of 197) is that not only is it okay to be different, but great things can come from those who are uniquely abled, particularly when they work together (and can respect the need for the skills they may be lacking, such as social awareness, public speaking, or customer-facing verbal communications).
Geeks have the ability to specialize and to focus. For example, the brilliant writer and big data specialist Dr. Jeffrey Strickland has written poignantly about the fact that he has Asperger’s, a set of conditions that fall within the Autism Spectrum Disorder. His extreme focus may make him seem less than ideally responsive to his wife and his daughters at times, he has noted, but it helps to make him a brilliantly focused scientist and writer. In fact, he has more than 10,250 avid followers who look for the material he publishes on LinkedIn precisely because of his keen ability to focus. So, in that respect, his challenge is also a gift.
Geeks can often find and attract additional geeks. While geeks may or may not interact well with clients or with each other (one of O’Brien’s favorite quips goes like this: “How do you tell an extroverted engineer? He’s staring at your shoes instead of his own”), in many respects, geeks flock together. Consider the phenomenon of the Comic Con shows, which, in our Salt Lake region, for example, is one of the fastest growing events in our state (and the fastest growing Comic Con, we believe, in the world). We are proud to acknowledge our region as the world’s Nerd Capital, with a tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem that seems to correlate with that score. We work hard to live up to that billing.
In all, the fact that a “geek entrepreneur” may stick out like a sore thumb in a high society setting could actually be describing the traits that make him or her more relatable in the entrepreneurial realm.As an organization, then, you should learn to value and even treasure the geeks you observe from without and within. And as a current or aspiring entrepreneurial leader, the next time someone refers to you as a “pencil-neck geek,” perhaps the best response you can give them is “Thanks!”
David K. Williams ,