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Do You Have to Be a Genius to Be an Innovator?

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Good news, everyone! Innovation is not a special gift reserved only for those in the elite, "high IQ" societies! Innovation is available to all of us — if we choose it.

If you're a video person, I lay it all out in the video below. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!

Hey there, Bill Stainton here with Turning Creativity into Money™, and today I want to try and answer a question that you may have asked yourself, and it's this:

Do you have to be a genius to be an innovator?

Okay, first of all, why is that question even a thing? Why do people even think to ask that question? What is it about genius and innovator that people think that, well, you've got to be one to be the other?

Well, it's probably because of this, you know, the popular image we have of the innovative type. You know, when you think of innovator, you think of people like Beethoven, and Marie Curie, and Steve Jobs. All, absolutely, of course, geniuses, at least in their particular field. And all, absolutely, innovators.

So, we see, oh, they're a genius and they're an innovator—therefore you have to be this to be that, they are one and the same. That that's the only thing that's an innovator—
you have to be a Beethoven, a Marie Curie, a Steve Jobs to be an innovator.

And that's just, that's, that's just not true. That's just not true at all. You do not have to be—there, I'll just say it—you do not have to be a genius to be an innovator.

And by the way, being a genius does not automatically make you an innovator.

A few years ago I was the opening keynoter for the annual convention of Mensa. Now Mensa is a high IQ society. In fact, the only requirement for membership in Mensa is that you score a really, really high score on an IQ test of some sort. So, I'm doing my keynote and out in the audience are hundreds and hundreds of, well, geniuses. I mean, by IQ score of course they're, I mean, they're way above the average. So these are really, really smart people. Let's just say they're, these are, we'll paint them with the broad brush, we'll call them geniuses, okay? I know there's lots of different definitions of genius, but, you know, certainly as far as IQ goes, these folks were up there, right?

In talking with them afterwards, though, how many of them were innovators? I'd say a very, very small percentage.

Now, they all had the capacity for innovation—we all do. But how many of them were actually using their amazing IQs for innovative purposes? Very few of them.

In most cases, what, what did they use their IQ for? Well, they, they learned everything about their own particular area of interest. Whatever their area of interest was, they knew everything about it. And they could give it back to you. They could recite facts and figures and all sorts of things.

But did they have an original, innovative idea of their own? In most cases, not really.

So you don't have to be a genius to be an innovator. Being a genius does not necessarily make you an innovator.

What is innovation? Innovation really is just about solving problems. An innovator, at the core, an innovator is a problem solver. And, let me just say if you have, if you had to be a genius to be an innovator, if you had to be a genius to solve problems, we never would have solved most of our problems on the, on the planet. We probably would have died out as a species tens of thousands of years ago. You know, if you had to be a genius to be a problem solver, that's, that's not good news, right?

So don't fall into this trap of thinking, "Well, I can't be an innovator because I'm not a genius."

First of all, if you keep saying to yourself, "I'm not a genius, " shame on you. Stop talking to yourself that way. There's lots of different kinds of genius. IQ is just one measure of genius. So stop putting yourself down like that first of all.

And second, realize that being an innovator and being a genius, no matter how you define it, are two completely separate things! Two completely separate things. That's like saying, "Oh, do I have to be a genius to enjoy apples?" What? what? That's—how do you come up with that?

So if you say, "Do I have to be a genius to be an innovator?" you're really saying, "Do I have to be a genius to solve a problem?"

That's patently absurd, of course. No, you don't have to be a genius to be an innovator. You are an innovator, if you choose to be.

What do you have to be in order to be an innovator? You don't have to be a genius—you have to be an observer. You have to, you have to first of all, observe problems. Observe, "Oh, here's a situation. Huh. I wonder how it could be better."

That's really the key. That's what the innovator does. We've talked about this in previous videos. An innovator comes up, comes up against a problem, or some sort of challenge, and instead of just whining and complaining about it like most of us do, the innovator says, "Huh. I wonder how this could be better." And that's it.

Does that take an act of genius to ask that question? Could you ask that question? Of course you can. No matter what your IQ. You see a situation that you don't like—"Ooh, how can it be better?" Congratulations! You're now on the road to innovation.

So no, you don't have to be a genius to be an innovator. You are an innovator—if you choose to be. So choose to be!

I'm Bill Stainton. I'll be back next time with more ideas of how you can Turn Creativity into Money™.

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About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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