Most professionals struggle to find a sense of purpose or meaning from their work, or from life in general. The pursuit of purpose at work has been a significant trend in the 21st Century that continues to elude many.
A sense of purpose comes from having clarity on why our actions matter, and ultimately from having clarity on why we exist. In our day-to-day lives, purpose comes from knowing that we are using our abilities to best serve others.
The outcome is a feeling of fulfilment. From an evolutionary point of view, it is about our 'tribe' surviving and thriving - when you are using your skills and strengths to the best of your ability to solve the most difficult problems your group are facing, you feel fulfilled.
Being an innovator is about focusing on solving meaningful problems - maximising your potential for the good of others. It is at the crux of what provides us a sense of purpose, that makes us feel fulfilled and that we are living a meaningful life.
Choose to focus on solving meaningful problems, the problems that are not only important but that play to your strengths. Focus on the problems you are best positioned to solve in the world and figure out how to measure progress so that you can see the impact you're having on others.
You can think of impact as the number of people you help multiplied by how meaningful that help is to them on average.
When you focus on solving meaningful problems, those which are experienced by lots of people and that on average matter to those people, you will make a large impact. Of course it is always part luck, and you have to ask whether this is a goal you really care about...but if you do, then becoming a skilled innovator is a great way to achieve this.
A quote from our friend Scotty, Google's Head of Innovation, that I like: "10 times better doesn't mean 10 times harder". In other words, aim to build amazing solutions that are 10 times better than what exists, because while it is 10 times better, doesn't mean it is 10 times the effort, resources or risk to achieve.
Innovation is about creating novel solutions to meaningful problems. At first, you might wonder... isn't it better to just create higher-quality solutions rather than only novel solutions to problems?
Here's why novelty matters. Take one of the best problem-solving companies on the planet, Amazon. They are amazing at systematically identifying and solving problems, and have created an extremely large and successful business. But, here's the thing, if Amazon didn't exist, another e-retailer would. Now, if Apple hadn't created the iPhone, a novel solution at the time, then we might have never had smart phones quite like we do today.
Real impact in the world derives from the unique contributions we can make. Not solving something slightly better than the person next to us, but solving something 10 times better by being willing to think out of the box. Note Amazon is also great at real innovation.
Innovation is the ability to develop and deliver novel solutions to meaningful problems. An innovator is someone skilled at the discipline of delivering novel solutions to problems.
In this article, I share 3 reasons why you should strive to be an innovator.
I view innovation as a core infrastructure that empowers organisations and people to develop world-class solutions to globally meaningful problems. That empowers people to shape their world.
Our goal at Alto is to democratise innovation - to provide every person and organisation with access to world-class innovation capability.
On the selfish personal note, it is fulfilling and exciting to work on difficult problems. It is fun to be challenged and to always be learning.
In the next article, we'll introduce the key behaviours of an innovator. Stay tuned.
Andy, Innovator at Alto
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