Where do the best innovative ideas come from?

by Akbar Jaffer
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Nest thermostat innovation

Whether you want to be an entrepreneur, improve your business operations, introduce a new product, or expand the umbrella of your business to include unique and diverse services, you need ideas – lots and lots of them!

It’s not always necessary that all your ideas are ‘the next big thing’, but some of them will surely be! The key to get innovative ideas is to understand a few basic concepts about innovation as outlined below:

Innovation comes from identifying real problems

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” – Plato

The best innovations come from people who are immersed in a problem; whether in an industry or in a product that’s their passion, their love and their hobby. When you’re intimate with a product line, industry, and type of customers, you can pinpoint the problems faced by your customers or their industry. You spend long enough time with something and you develop compassion for your customers and understand their real problems.

Nest Thermostat

Nest thermostat innovationNest makes homes a delight to live in by creating technology that solves our everyday problems. The Nest thermostat has made use of the latest available technology of Artificial Intelligence and solved one of the major problems of home-owners – escalating energy bills! The thermostat learns and programs itself by adapting to temperature needs.

Innovation takes time

Give it time. It’s the counter-thought to “get big fast” or “get rich fast”, but history tells us that good and solid long-term solutions don’t come over night! Researching a problem for which a solution isn’t available or existing solutions are insufficient takes years. Only solid research produces real disrupting innovations.


You probably don’t know that it took Apple five years to design the first iPhone! And wait till you hear the rest of it. The project for Apple tablet started off first, but seeing the user-friendliness and ease of use of the first display, Steve Jobs turned it into the Apple phone!

apple iphone innovation siriAnother example is Siri herself. Are you aware that the development of Siri started out as a Defense project by DARPA in 2003? And it was completed five years later in 2008. So the next time you end up disappointed because things are going too slow, remember, great ideas always take time to turn into reality.  Its easy to copy an existing idea or to make a minor incremental improvement on an existing innovation but we are talking about true, disrupting, game changing, innovations that alter the way we do things or change the way we think about things.


Innovation comes from experiencing variety

“Legendary innovators like Franklin, Snow, and Darwin all possess some common intellectual qualities—a certain quickness of mind, unbounded curiosity—but they also share one other defining attribute. They have a lot of hobbies.”  -Steven Johnson

Learn to connect dots that are seemingly unrelated. You can achieve this by experiencing a variety of different activities in life; engage in different hobbies, read everything that comes your way (even that which doesn’t), read without a purpose, do things without any expectations, be open to all experiences, and be indiscriminate about people, products and ideas.


ILTG combines experiences as a creative design ad man, technology enthusiast, avid wine drinker, restaurant owner, and employer in the computer software programming industry. Results in: ILTG – pairs wine with music and fashion, instead of food (which is a cliché).

i like this grape - innovation

Steve Jobs

In 1985, Steve Jobs was vacationing in Italy where he learned about Pietra Serena, a grey-blue sandstone that came from a specific quarry outside of Florence. In 2002, more than ten years later, he ended up using that stone to design the floors of his Apple stores. This stone doesn’t get dirty easily and it takes fewer chemicals to clean them.

So, this is where real innovation comes from. We are not talking about reading ten articles then writing something, or gathering the functions of multiple devices into a single one (technically that is a kind of innovation, but still the only new thing you did was bring it all together), we are talking about Steve Jobs, Tesla and Thomas Edison kind of innovation.

Good luck for your future endeavors!

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