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Understanding Innovation

Thom Ruhe, Director of Entrepreneurship, The Kauffman Foundation

Successful entrepreneurship is, in many respects, a “perfect storm” of strategic planning, market opportunity, hard work, perseverance, the right team and countless other factors – some within your control as an entrepreneur, and some that aren’t.  One factor that often plays a large role in the early success of start-up ventures is “innovation.”  The good news is that it’s one of the factors that can be controlled.

Thinking about (and attempting to define) “innovation” as a broad, abstract concept is a bit much to wrap your head around, but looking at it as an identifiable, finite moment in time – the “a-ha moment,” if you will – makes it a bit easier to grasp.  The Kauffman Foundation’s VP of Advancing Innovation (ed: great title…) Lesa Mitchell has recorded a number of good, short videos delving into this exact topic – they’re available on the Kauffman site and I’ve linked to them below.

Click here for Lesa Mitchell Videos

We recognize the substantial role that entrepreneurs have played in leading the recovery of past recessions – and the role they’re currently playing and WILL continue to play in recovering from this one.  Because of that, one of the things we’ve attempted to do is to identify a model that illustrates the steps that bridge the gap between purely academic research and entry into the commercial marketplace that many technological, high-growth entrepreneurs and innovators experience on their path to success.

- What factors contribute to the transition?
- What factors aid/hinder it?
- What are the traits of those start-ups and individuals who can consistently do it?
- Are there any common practices, pitfalls or approaches on which we can help shed some light?

That’s essentially the goal of all these efforts to better understand the processes behind the art and science of innovation – to shine a light on what’s being done and bring the knowledge that we can gleam from those insights to entrepreneurs, policy makers and business-people everywhere. 

What do you think?  CAN innovation as a component of the entrepreneurial life cycle be weighed, measured, quantified and – ultimately – understood deeply enough to be taught?

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