By Kristen Van Nest
Kristen Van Nest is an editorial director of Singularity University's Innovating Women project.
"It is important to understand that innovation happens in many ways. We should not get hung up on thinking an innovation is a massive breakthrough. Innovation often comes in a series of steps," recommends Kay Koplovitz, Chairman & CEO at Koplovitz & Co LLC and the founder of USA Network and creator of today's cable television business model. Those most successful in entrepreneurship understand that regardless of where they were in their career, acquiring new skills was critical to the innovation process. On a day-to-day basis, they followed their passions on undefined paths, not expecting leaping breakthroughs, but understanding that each step would lead to new opportunities.
For an upcoming book, Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future, co-authored by Vivek Wadhwa and Farai Chideya, top female entrepreneurs shared their stories on how they reached the top, developing the broad, yet specialized knowledge-base necessary to create innovation within their fields. Their anecdotes provide insight as to how aspiring entrepreneurs can educate and prepare themselves to start their own firms.
For Alison Lewis, named one of the Most Influential Women in Technology in 2010 by Fast Company and founder of Agent of Presence, a fashion technology firm, she wanted to create unique experiences using fashion. Lewis realized her graphic design skills were not enough to support her passion of technology-based design. At the age of 28, she learned electrical engineering from scratch: "To step into electronic engineering, it was scary. I just really wanted to make stuff, jewelry that responded when loved ones were thinking about each other, or I wanted to make garments that when you hugged them, they responded to you. The power and the will to want to make something in a space where you feel free to want to make something, makes it a lot easier to learn." The label 'designer' did not limit her, but instead she created an environment in which she could be whatever she wanted to be, surrounding herself with supportive and innovative creators in Parson's Design & Technology program. This made her comfortable adding 'electrical engineer' to her repertoire.
"It wasn't like... I want to be an entrepreneur, I want to have a million dollars," says Danae Ringelmann, the founder of IndieGoGo, the crowdfunding platform, "It's just been about following the dots, connecting with the needs right in front of you, paying attention to your nature and what is really bothering you on a day-to-day basis and then taking action about it." While working at JP Morgan, Ringelmann attended a Hollywood-meets-Wall Street event. After seeing many film producers unable to access capital, she knew she had to do something. Combining her financial background and passion for film with new skills enabled her to found IndieGoGo, which allows anyone, anywhere the ability to raise capital for their projects. The site has already raised millions of dollars for thousands of campaigns worldwide (including Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future).
As put by Henry Ford: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." These innovators kept their eye on the end goal, but focused on the baby steps, acquiring the necessary knowledge base and experiences. This strategy, with commitment and perseverance, helped them create innovation within their fields.
For more on Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future or to pre-order a copy, visit IndieGoGo page: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/innovating-women
Photo credit: Shutterstock
This material published courtesy of Singularity University.