Innovation as Explained by Christopher Columbus

| By Editorial Staff

Why Christopher Columbus Illustrates Everything You Need to Know about Innovation

“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” If these words cause you to have flashbacks of the utter boredom you experienced in history class, do not worry. There is no plan to repeat that boredom here. Even better, there will be no test after you read this blog.

Instead, we will explore how the story of Christopher Columbus can teach you basically everything you need to know about innovation in business today. Here’s how:

1) Question established wisdom

Innovation requires an adventurous spirit. Christopher Columbus questioned the prevailing wisdom of his day. Believing the second century estimate regarding the earth’s circumference to be wrong, he estimated that sailing westward, instead of following the established route along the coastline of Africa, would discover a shorter route to Asia.

While his plan was flawed, his questioning of established wisdom did lead to his discovery of the Americas, earning him a place in history and forever reshaping the destiny of many countries and cultures.

To achieve success, it is sometimes necessary to challenge the prevailing methodologies of the day, charting your own course, rather than meekly following established business patterns and trends.

2) Think outside the box

Thinking outside the box stems from questioning established wisdom. First you question, and then you ideate.

Columbus gathered information in early voyages, gaining knowledge about the Atlantic currents flowing east and west from the Canary Islands. He did not blindly head out into the unknown without any basis in fact. Columbus first collected information to make an educated leap of faith. Although, thought without action is dead; courage is also required to execute your idea.

Business innovators today gather appropriate information and then try to see that same information from a different perspective. Rather than accepting processes at face value, they dig deeper to find a unique way of accomplishing goals. Then they take action.

3) Find reasonable sources of funding

Columbus did not secure financial backing for his expeditions easily. However, after pleading his case before multiple monarchs, his persistence ultimately paid off when Queen Isabella of Castile agreed to finance his trip. Evidently, he made such a striking impression that Queen Isabella kept him on retainer even before she decided to finance his mission.

It is essential to find adequate funding when bringing ideas to real-world status. Help investors see the true potential of your idea and compel them to back it wholeheartedly by providing as much relevant information as possible.

4) Have the courage of your convictions

Turned down in Portugal, Genoa, and Venice, Christopher Columbus could have easily chosen to abandon his quest to find a shorter route to Asia. Still, he was firmly convinced that he was right, and he persisted in pursuit of his ultimate goal.

If you truly believe in your idea, work to bring it to life, rather than allowing minor or even major setbacks to stop the ideation process. Always press forward in pursuit of your goals.

5) Even if your idea is not perfect, aim high and accomplish much

Columbus was wrong about the circumference of the earth, and was mistaken about the land he discovered. His assumptions were almost entirely incorrect, but the things Columbus did accomplish changed the very nature of the modern world.

His expeditions ultimately led to a mingling of cultures and civilizations, vastly changing the course of history for all time.

The creative process does not always progress in a linear path. The learning curve of innovation may be steep or curvy. Nevertheless, innovation is what drives business growth. This can be summed up by quote from the great Michelangelo, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark”.

The Bottom Line

Like other trail blazing individuals throughout history, Columbus used innovative strategies to bring his ideas to life. Business innovators today embark on a similar journey, pressing ever forward to bring their ideas to fruition.


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