Entrepreneur vs Innovator

What is it that companies really need? Entrepreneurs or someone who is a real innovator?

Dictionary.com defines an entrepreneur as, “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”

According to Brett Nelson, a contributor to Forbes.com, “Dictionary.com has it right: Entrepreneurs, in the purest sense, are those who identify a need—any need—and fill it.”

Entrepreneur is the hero of the millennium thus far. It is the term that appears in most every job spec for a leadership position. It is the desired attribute that companies say they want as they build their teams. If you look around at your neighborhood business school, they have probably added an entrepreneurship track or major to their curriculum.
The focus on entrepreneurship, especially in colleges, is flawed. Putting aside for the moment whether you can actually teach someone to be an entrepreneur, teach them to be risk takers, if you accept Mr. Nelson’s premise and look more closely, the starting point of any business is “identifying a need and filling it.”
What businesses need are people who are trained in innovation. Before anyone has ever been a successful entrepreneur, they had an idea. A unique, meaningful, believable, deliverable, repeatable and scalable innovation.

The world is littered with “entrepreneurs” who took exciting risks, often with other people’s money, but didn’t have a truly innovative idea at the root.
1. Unique - Does the offering have a point of difference that can be easily recognized by the target audience – one that is large enough to matter?
2. Meaningful - Is your point of uniqueness meaningful… valuable to your target(s) relative to their established wants and needs? Unique without meaningful belongs in the Ripley’s museum.
3. Believable - Will the target audience easily believe your company is capable of delivering this offering and its meaningful point of difference? If not it will take time and money to convince them. Not impossible, but more costly.
4. Deliverable - Can you deliver on the promise you are making for your product or service? There are a pile of companies that had a great idea but the technology never quite lived up to the hype.
5. Repeatable - Can you deliver top quality goods, consistently? And remember that it is the customer that will define both “quality” and “consistency”.
6. Scalable - What if you landed the biggest target customer on your wish list?
Could you deliver on time, the highest quality product you offer with your current organization, funding, operations, sales force, customer service, etc., etc., etc.
Teach people how to innovate. There are some proven tools. Then teach them how to evaluate those innovations. Fail fast. Fail cheap. And then move on.
Companies certainly need people with an entrepreneurial spirit – even in massive, process-oriented organizations. That’s true. But what they need even more are innovators who can keep the pipeline full, challenge the status quo with ideas that have a measurable chance to succeed.

Too many people are focused on the wrong thing.