Editor’s note: Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books, Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.
Entrepreneurs have been a driving force behind the global economic recovery. They bring energy, passion and innovative ideas that can help solve some of our most pressing problems. In Latin America, startups are the hope for the future. In Brazil alone, some 65 percent of young people say they plan to start their own businesses.
Technology companies, entrepreneurs and investors alike are looking to Brazil as a place for future growth in the region. Brazil’s successful startup culture is due in part to recent government incentives and programs designed to help entrepreneurs launch their businesses. More important than government assistance or encouragement, though, is the innovative spirit entrepreneurs bring to their ventures.
During my 30 years in the consumer electronics industry, I’ve seen plenty of businesses start and fail, and I’ve noted some universal characteristics among the businesses that succeed. The key to success is not government aid – although too many government regulations can stifle startups before they ever get off the ground.
Entrepreneurs who want to launch a successful business have to be what I call “ninja innovators.” These are leaders who exhibit the traits of ancient Japanese warriors: they are disciplined, determined and passionate, and willing to take risks in order to succeed. They know how to learn from failure in order to succeed in the future. Above all, these modern ninjas understand that in today’s technological world, a successful startup must innovate or die.
The same qualities that made the Japanese ninjas notorious warriors have made today’s most notable entrepreneurs successful. They follow specific strategies to achieve success.
First, ninja innovators must set their sights on victory. The only way to succeed is by determining to do so at the very beginning. Next, they have to develop a “strike force.” Some people have a romantic ideal of innovators starting great companies all on their own, but this just isn’t true. Behind every successful startup is a talented team working together for the same goal. Some of today’s greatest companies, like Apple, eBay and Google, grew because of people working together.
Ninja innovators also have to be willing to take risks. Letting fear of failure keep you from acting will predetermine the outcome: you can’t possibly succeed if you’re too afraid to try. Granted, risks should be calculated, not foolish, but a ninja innovator has to be courageous. This courage requires discipline. For entrepreneurs, this entails being mentally steeled against whatever obstacles might arise, focusing always on the end goal.
To attain their goals, ninja innovators adopt what I call a living strategy. They plan ahead, but they understand that they don’t know everything; their blueprint can adapt as needed to change tactics as circumstances arise. The best innovators expect surprises, and they’re always ready to act. Regardless of what happens, ninja innovators always behave ethically. But they also know when to break the rules in order to make room for innovative ideas. This is because the ninja innovator’s most important task is to innovate; without creativity and new ideas, businesses can’t last.
Later this month, we will see the power of innovation in action as thousands gather in Brazil for The Next Web Conference Latin America. The conference will feature more than 250 startups showcasing innovative products and services in front of thousands of conference attendees from around the world. The Next Web will provide the newest startups with a platform to share their products and network with other businesses, investors and experts.
I am honored to be delivering a keynote address at the conference, and eager to meet Latin America’s entrepreneurs, from established businesses to up-and-coming new ventures. The global economy is counting on their success, and if they can adopt the habits of ninja innovators, we will all benefit.
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