It’s a big concept. A buzzword, one that the tech world throws around like a status symbol.
As a team that calls itself “innovative,” we considered whether we were guilty of misusing the term. After some introspection, we believe that our definition of innovation is something we truly strive to embody every day.
By our measure, something innovative must be both new and real. It doesn’t have to be an invention to be “new,” but it should be unique and must solve a particular problem in a way that hasn’t been seen before. To be “real,” this thing must be able to exist. It isn’t enough to sketch or whiteboard it. It must be accessible and useful outside the walls of a lab or office.
So to be innovative, you need a new idea that can be made real, and you need people who can do the work—innovators. There are two types of these people: dreamers and builders.
Dreamers ask “What if?” They imagine solutions that haven’t been tried before. Builders ask “How do we get this to work?” There is certainly tension between these two types of people. If you dream too big, you can’t make it real. If you play it safe and only conceptualize what you know can be built now, you may miss a key solution. When you put these two types of people together, though, they can work together to dream big and create real solutions that achieve those dreams, and that’s what we think of as innovation.
Missions to the Moon
At LaunchPad we have a pretty intense obsession with NASA (we even have our own SPACE program) and consider that group of dreamers and builders to be a key inspiration that drives our own development. It’s hard to find a more inspiring example of innovation than NASA’s manned missions to the moon. (Note: We’re shelving all conspiracy theories for now and will allow for Mars missions to replace this example promptly upon our arrival in 2018.)
When Kennedy declared, “We choose to go to the moon by the end of this decade” in 1961, countless innovations were set in motion.
It would take 8+ years, huge financial investments, and the dedication of thousands of men and women to reach this goal. There were no prescribed plans for how to achieve it. Those folks, dreamers and builders, had to break down the problem to make it real. Each challenge along the way was solved by an innovation. For example: Complicated telemetry and steering thrusters were controlled by what became the joystick. And, to make a round trip feasible, the team designed a multi-stage rocket capable of supporting a lunar orbit rendezvous.
It took 11 Apollo missions to accomplish a successful round trip with astronauts touching down on the surface of the moon. The previous 10 missions weren’t failures but building blocks to a bigger innovation and goal.
We don’t mean to compare LaunchPad too strongly to NASA. But we certainly are in awe of them and the amazing breakthroughs they’ve developed. They embody our definition of innovation and inspire us to ask ourselves tough questions: How can we solve app development problems in new, unique ways? How can we tackle business development challenges with simple, yet effective solutions? As digital product builders, we always push ourselves to do work we consider innovative.
Something new. Something real. By dreamers. By builders.