Students, especially in the field of Engineering and Technology are known to be curious as well as dynamic like mercury. If these students are rightly tapped, they are carved into innovators who can create new ideas, develop novel thoughts and come up with products which can be commercialized. This article gives some commonly observed traits and attitude by the author in student innovators (SIs) who are pursuing their bachelor’s in engineering or technology. These have to be carefully interpreted and is only the perspective of the authors and not true with all students but maybe with most of the students.
One: Hates mundane things
SIs usually hate the mundane routine and gets easily bored with routine classes, schedule, labs, and ambiance
Two: Likes limited courses
SIs likes only a few courses which have analysis, analytical thinking and examples. If it is more of calculations, formulas, and derivations, it may not appeal to the student.
Three: Do not easily accept anything, the question
Usually, the SIs are curious about a lot of concepts and always questions the authorities, teachers, classmates, etc. Never accepts or get convinced easily.
Four: Not liked by many
SIs who always like to question the ecosystem via classmates, teachers, seniors are not usually liked by many. But they always bond with very few friends and limited friends and prefer hanging around with them.
Five: Obsessed with technology
SIs usually are obsessed, to the extent of being fanatical about a particular technology. They try to push the self-liked concepts and technologies in every possible forum and never leaves an opportunity to do so.
Six: Thinks outside the box
Think and start using unconventional ways of finding problems and solutions. They may think it is obvious and important while others may not see it the same way.
Somehow the SIs fail in delivering actual innovations, meaning the inventions which they work on, won’t lead to commercialization in spite of above mentioned having positive attitudes.
Few of the reasons are listed below;
- Lack of right Mentor
The mentor whom they choose are usually technical mentor and not business mentor and end up concentrating more on the technology and forget the business part of it. Technology is required but not to such an extent. Even though the technology may be very good, their business model can make or break the product.
- Focus on technology only
SIs being from engineering schools, they always tend to focus more on technology. They try to build amazing technologies irrespective of its benefits and uses.
- Focus is not on ‘Unmet need’
Usually, the SIs try to solve the unknown or uninvestigated problem rather than a well-understood problem. It is said if we understand the problem completely and correctly it is half solved. It is similar to developing an excellent hammer and you are trying to search a nail which you can use the developed hammer on it.
- Need versus Want unclear
It is important for SIs to know explicitly need versus want. Many times, this is understood while hunting for an unmet need to solve the identified problem. SIs usually build solutions which may solve the need, but nobody wants. This is one of the mistakes.
- Not working as a Team
SIs usually are under impression that they are the solo player and can achieve everything independently. This is a pure misconception. Innovation or entrepreneurship is definitely not a solo affair! The team usually composes of Hipsters (good at design), Hackers (good at technology) and Hustlers (good at business).
- Difficulty in embracing Failure
It is often seen that failure is something which is not embraced by the SIs. But remember you will success on knowing what doesn’t work. One more tip to consider is FAIL but FAIL Fast! Remember Thomas Edison created ten thousand failed prototypes before inventing the electric bulb which we can’t imagine our life without.
- Not applying for funding
Irrespective of the country, all governments do encourage innovation by offering funds/grants mostly concentrating on academic institutions. SIs should leverage on them as seed money to develop their alpha prototype before approaching investors. The reason for not applying is mainly due to disinterest and lack of self-confidence though it is a low hanging fruit.
- Lack of credibility
The one who believes in you is definitely family and friends and of course your school because they have nurtured you well suited for being SIs. You should leverage on them to test and get feedback instead of approaching a new ecosystem where you have not developed any credibility. You know the first time is called first because it is always challenging, and you should crack it somehow!
- Business Model
A common reason for failure is not understanding what a business model is! and how SIs will convert the invention into innovation which required commercialization. Money is an important part to consider innovation to make some value.
- Not using a methodological approach
Though there are many models available for innovators and entrepreneurs to follow, still you need to find which works best for you. And you may come up with your own model for developing your innovation. It is not a 9 to 5 job you are into! The systematic way is not the byproduct or prediction of successful innovation.
- Choosing Local vs Global
SIs usually solve the problem faced by someone whom you do not know or who are not in reach. First SIs should solve the local problem faced by the communities around and then use reverse innovation strategy to expand globally.
Remember in Innovation, everything will not go as planned.
Face it the way it comes and solve using your mentors and team help. Success in entrepreneurship is often preceded by innovations, passion, and perseverance. Importantly SIs should focus on one unmet need and try to solve it in different ways till they crack the right way and of course with the help of the mentor who is the right person for you to guide.
Author:Abhishek Appaji M Assistant Professor,
Dept of Medical Electronics,
B.M.S. College of Engineering, Bengaluru, India
Treasurer, IEEE TEMS Bangalore Chapter
VC for YP, IEEE TEMS India