Can I be an innovator and not an entrepreneur?
I realize that I have lots of ideas. Some of that comes from an overactive imagination. Some of it might be related to having ideation as my top-ranking StrengthsFinder themes. I even bring some of these ideas come into reality, but it brings me just as much joy to share an idea that someone else makes it happen. (cf. inception)
“Ideas are very dangerous things,” said Hopper during another one of his monologues in the film, A Bug’s Life.
That is the power of an idea. A good idea can motivate and inspire people to take action. A great idea can change the reality of our current situation and bring about a whole new future. A new idea that breaks through into reality can disrupt the course of human history.
Ideas start as something that doesn’t yet exist, except in the mind of imagination, and with the right mix of conversations, resources, effort, time, and ingenuity, the idea becomes a real thing as it takes on a life of its own and becomes incarnate.
But many ideas don’t get realized for different reasons. There are people who are particularly skilled at kicking around hypothetical ideas—they’re known as philosophers. Others that strive to reimagine the world might be called dreamers. And, some of my ideas go into those buckets; some of my other ideas would be considered innovations.
Where I come up short, knowing my own limitations, as part of my self-awareness, I am more of an innovator with a few compelling ideas and not an entrepreneur. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I think of entrepreneurs as people who take an idea (and it doesn’t have to be their own) and has the innate drive to find the resources, or create the resources to turn that idea into a self-sustaining initiative, whether that’s a business (for-profit) or organization (non-profit). To be more specific, the people described as successful entrepreneurs are the ones that do successfully create a profitable business in such a way that gets the attention and admiration of other business leaders and even the masses.
And, perhaps, that’s the point of differentiation between innovators and entrepreneurs. There are innovators with great ideas that are not readily sustainable by the free market economy, but yet those ideas need a place to be implemented, so that the making of that idea becomes the seed for birthing another idea that could be more viable. This is the vital role of R&D, research and development. And, I would say, it’s not only a necessity in the for-profit world; having a laboratory for experimentation is also necessary in the non-profit world. (Aside: just listened to a podcast make a case for how orchestras and symphonies are not sustainable in a free market economy and yet they get funded somehow.)
Having spent most of my working hours in the non-profit world, I’ve found it elusive to find this experimental space where more of my ideas can be given the opportunity and get the resources to be cultivated. That’s where I find myself.
If blogging could be a public prayer, this could be one. By the grace of God, perhaps He would sovereignly connect me with someone who would be a patron or benefactor that’d generously fund the testing of new ideas, or to team me up with an entrepreneur who would have the business acumen to evaluate and select a few of my ideas that have a better chance at becoming sustainable, then I’ll keep sharing my ideas freely through my blog here, in hopes that some of my ideas will serve pepole well one day in due time.
And, this topic is one that I allude to in chapter 11 of my new book, MultiAsian.Church: A Future for Asian Americans in a Multiethnic World.