On a biting cold night in 1957, Momofuku Ando was walking home from the salt-making factory in Osaka, Japan. He saw clouds of steam in the street around which a crowd of people were huddled. They were waiting, a long time as it turned out, for noodles to be cooked in vats of boiling water. “Why should they wait so long?” he thought.
He quickly become consumed with the challenge of making noodles that didn’t take so long to cook. Toiling away in his backyard shed, after a year of trial and error Ando discovered the secret of revitalizing precooked noodles that were flavorful. “Instant noodles” were born. In 1958 he sold 13 million bags of his three-minute noodles. Today, around the world, over 100 billion servings of instant noodles are eaten each year. The Japanese voted instant noodles their second most important invention of the twentieth century (after the now obsolete Sony Walkman).
Innovation is rooted in four traits: a dissatisfaction with how things are, the inquisitiveness to ponder “what if,” the initiative to take action, and the persistence to transform the what-if into a viable reality. All four are essential. Dissatisfaction alone results in frustration and complaining. Add inquisitiveness, and you’re still only daydreaming. Taking action gets you in the game. Yet add persistence and now you have what separates true innovators from mere dabblers.
How persistent is persistent? One example: James Dyson, the inventor and founder of Dyson vacuums, went through 5,127 prototypes of his dual-cyclone, bagless vacuum cleaner before launching it to the market. That’s persistence.
The world is changing. You’re being forced to innovate. Cultivate and hire for four critical traits: dissatisfaction, inquisitiveness, initiative, and persistence. And while innovating doesn’t guarantee that your business will succeed, failing to innovate all but guarantees that it won’t.
Make it happen.
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