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Innovation Starts With “I” in the Reinvention Revolution

Innovation Starts With “I” in the Reinvention Revolution

As we settle into a post-pandemic reality, the time is ripe for setting up a kinder future — a future centered around ourselves and radiating outward.

COVID-19 triggered the beginning of a new era of work embedded with remote jobs, flexible hours, and, surprisingly, a lot more empathy for our fellow employees and employers. As a result, an increasing number of people are quitting their 9-5 jobs to pursue their passions, reinvent themselves, and reposition their brands and businesses to align closer with their values.

We have learned, very quickly, that we don’t need to be experts in the problems we are solving to bring about effective and sustainable change. Successful examples of disruptive innovation have shown us that empathy and collaboration are more important today than expertise.

[Related: How Time to Think Can Help You Do Your Best Work]

The reinvention revolution has begun.

The global pandemic has taken a lot from us. But it has also afforded us the luxury of time. Amid lockdowns, quarantines, and remote work, professionals have taken time to reflect on their career paths, while business owners have rethought their value propositions. Many have realized that they’re on paths they no longer want to pursue, driven by values they don’t believe in anymore.

An increasing number of professionals are looking for ways to reinvent themselves. From 2019 to 2020, the U.S. experienced a 40% increase in new business applications, reaching a fifteen-year high in 2020. Entrepreneurship is no longer just about building a business — it is also a personal transformation journey.

Many of us are talented at and passionate about more than one field. The reinvention revolution gives us the opportunity to explore and build on these multi-talents, paving the way for generalists to rise to the top. In a fast-paced economy filled with uncertainty, knowing how to reinvent yourself is key.

The future belongs to generalists.

Being a specialist can be rewarding. Yet specializing can also make us less competitive. For example, physical therapists who regularly post explainer videos on YouTube have a much wider reach than their colleagues who only see patients in-person.

When we focus all our energy on being really good at just one thing, we don’t pay attention to our other abilities or build on our assortment of passions. We’re great at one thing, and we stick to it.

generalist brings value from many angles. They’re able to look at a problem from a 360 degree perspective and bring insights from various perspectives to come up with new, innovative, and sustainable solutions.

There is a freedom that comes with being a generalist. When we’re constantly yearning to do something else, we feel restricted and ongoingly dissatisfied. That freedom is a key benefit of the reinvention revolution.

[Related: The Skills You Need to Succeed in 2020 and Beyond]

Twelve future-proof capabilities to change your life.

There are twelve capabilities that can future-proof our careers and lives. They begin with learning to lean in to who we already are. The twelve future-proof capabilities can be classified into three components: I, WE, and WORLD.

I: Self-Awareness, Curiosity, Intuition, Originality.

WE: Collaboration, Empathy, Authenticity, Storytelling.

WORLD: Prioritization, Adaptability, Global Mindset, Influence.

To become a successful entrepreneur, intrapreneur, hybridpreneur, or whatever we want to call ourselves, we have to begin with us. Innovation starts with I, after all.

Before we start coming up with solutions on how to solve worldly problems, we have to address our inner problems. First, we create clarity on who we are, what we stand for, and who we want to become. Then the steps forward are simple.

In I, we use our sweet spots, and learn how to nurture them, as the source of our ability to be self-aware, curious, intuitive, and original.

As we move toward WE, we take a firm grasp on our strengths and values to help us in our efforts to build and sustain a community around us in ways centered on mutuality of value.

Stepping toward WORLD, we look at the big picture and adapt a global mindset, finding ways to contribute to and connect with people from all walks of life.

These twelve future-proof capabilities prepare us for the unpredictable future.

Go on a 100 coffee challenge.

One way to go about strengthening our future-proof capabilities is to embark on a 100 coffee challenge.

The 100 coffee challenge forces us to step out of our comfort zone by initiating authentic conversations with people we know as well as people we don’t know, especially outside of our own industry. We build and nurture new relationships with people we might not otherwise have thought to consult.

Many people have called 2020 the Year of the Pivot, a catalyst for lifequakes and major transitions. In place of being reactive and chasing our own tails, the 100 coffee challenge is a proactive approach to reinventing ourselves. By having authentic conversations that teach us how others see us, we discover and further develop our sweet spots, bringing us closer to our long-term vision.

Are you ready for your 100 coffee challenge? Start with small steps.

Who are the first ten people you’d like to grab virtual coffee with?

[Related: How to Thrive in the Reinvention Revolution]


Saleema Vellani is the Founder and CEO of Ripple Impact, a business accelerator and community for entrepreneurs who are seeking to grow their companies and scale their platforms. She is also an Adjunct Professor at University Startups for Social Entrepreneurship and teaches Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship at Johns Hopkins University. Saleema is a global keynote speaker and the author of Innovation Starts With I. Sign up for her free biweekly newsletter and follow her journey on LinkedIn.

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