Collections of quotes compiled and a summation by Howard J. Leonhardt

The mind of an innovator is a mind that breaks from the tyranny of conformity despite the overwhelming pressure to be and think like everyone else. A person who creates something new that did not exist before. What makes certain people innovators, creators and inventors of anything that is new and unique? How is their mind different than others? This essay will explore just that.

“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your job is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it. I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again. Steve Jobs co-founder of Apple Computer

The ability to think creatively is one of the great catalysts of civilization. This was highlighted well in the Think Different Ad campaign by Apple Computer that first aired in 1997…

“Here’s to the crazy ones — the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do…… is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world……………..are the ones who do.”

A study of the process of innovation and those that lead it uncovers the following…

A Bias for Action and Experimentation
A High Tolerance for Repeated Failures
Unshakable Determination

Innovators are doers not just talkers or thinkers they have a bias for action. The move forward out into uncharted waters with no map or compass. They believe in ready, fire, aim rather than aim, aim, aim, ready, ready, aim, aim. They adjust to the target in route and realize that the important thing is to get going on the route. They move fast. They make mistakes. They learn from mistakes and try again. They experiment fearlessly. No matter what they try again, fail again and yet try one more time at a point of exhaustion where most others just give up. The most consistent trait observed when studying successful innovators is persistence and hard work. They build prototypes and test them. Lots of them. They fail forward fast. They are restless.

“Intelligent people can always come up with intelligent reasons … to do nothing.”—Scott Simon

Successful innovators learn early that quality in the game of innovation is a byproduct of quantity. More shots on goal = more goals. The most noticeable thing about the greatest of the great innovators, inventors, creators is the sheer volume of work they created. Innovators know that they maximize their chance for a breakthrough original by producing a greater volume of work than their peers. Mozart composed more than 600 pieces and 6 of them are noted amongst the best 50 musical compositions of all time. Beethoven landed 5 in the top 50 out of 650 pieces he created and Bach 3 of over one thousand compositions. A study of these composers confirmed that the more pieces a composer produced in a given five year window, the greater the spike in the odds of a hit. Einstein produced over 248 publications but only 2 or 3 have had enormous impact.

“If you want to be original, the most important thing you can possibly do is… a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work.” states Ira Glass

Thomas Edison filed over 1368 patents and yet those with enormous impact can be counted on one hand – the light bulb, the phonograph, the movie projector, carbon based phone improvements and cement blocks.

“It gets back to planning versus acting: We act from day one; others plan how to plan— for months.”—Michael Bloomberg

So you ask what separates the Mind of an Innovator from those that do not become innovators? Those that fail at innovation, that fail to achieve originality, fail because they choose the wrong path of focusing on a few ideas and then obsess about refining them to perfection and simply run out of time in their lives to make an original discovery. The Mind of Innovator is a mind that grasps rapid trial and error and deals with repeated failures well knowing that the volume of failures is leading him or her closer to a breakthrough.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

“This is so simple it sounds stupid, but it is amazing how few oil people really understand that you only find oil if you drill wells. You may think you’re finding it when you’re drawing maps and studying logs, but you have to drill.”—John Masters, The Hunters, by John Masters (Masters is a wildly successful Canadian Oil & Gas wildcatter.)

“W.T.T.M.S.W./Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins.
WTTMSASTMSUW/Whoever Tries The Most Stuff And Screws The Most Stuff Up Wins.
WTTMSASTMSUTFW/Whoever Tries The Most Stuff And Screws The Most Stuff Up The Fastest Wins.” Tom Peters


“Your life is like a thriller, my friend – half the fun is not knowing what’s going to happen. Often, the universe will send you a treasure in an unexpected package.” Robin Sharma

Dmitry Mendeleyev in 1869 had a dream that laid out to him the periodic table of elements that he wrote down immediately after he awoke. Mozart claimed he dreamed an entire symphony in his head before he wrote down a single note and it just came to him. Sir Frederick Banting discovered insulin via a dream he had. Niels Bohr dreamed of the model of an atom.

Nikola Tesla (whom our DNA test tells us we are related to him in near order) said his ability to invent was due to his ability to construct and test a model in his head ahead of actual experiments. He said he could project images from or in his mind so real that sometimes he believed he was looking at it with his eyes. He would only realize it was not real when he pushed his hand right through the image. He said his imagination was so vivid that he would take travel trips just in his brain and then later had a hard time distinguishing in his memory if he had actually been to the place or if he had just dreamed visiting there.

When I was 8 years old I used the garden hose to create a small ice rink in the back of our home in Maple Grove, Minnesota. I would go out there and imagine I was playing hockey game as a player. My imagination exercises over time playing this way became so trained that I started to really feel I was there in front of a large crowd at an arena and when I scored I could feel the emotion of the cheers. When someone would come along they would shout my name a number of times and I did not hear them. I was in a different world. When I finally heard them the world of imagination would come tumbling down to reality and it was a big let down. I used to be angry when someone would come along and break me out of the dream state. Understandably the neighbor kids thought my preference of playing hockey alone was a tad bit strange.

Later in my life I would always imagine a product or a company before it even existed. At the beginning it felt just the same as the pretend hockey game. It felt like a special dream state zone between a dream and a reality. When eventually there were real employees, a real factory with real product tests going on sometimes I felt like saying to these real people working with me “don’t you know this is just my imagination, this product did not exist, this company did not exist, YOU did not exist until I dreamed all this into being.” Much later after repeated successes in imagining things, products and companies that did not exist that then DID exist I started to believe that I could imagine anything and that it would come to be real. Well as you might expect that led to some disappointments.

Many successful people have received their greatest revelations while in a dream-like state and transformed their own lives or even the world around them. One good example was Thomas Edison. Edison was known to have said, “Ideas come from space”. Edison purportedly “napped” in the afternoon and woke up with solutions to the most perplexing problems.

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream

together is reality.”

“You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one”
― John Lennon

Walt Disney traveled to New York to ask for increased payment for his cartoon series Oswald the rabbit in order to be able to pay his cartoonists more. Mr. Mintz his distributor not only told him no but he informed Walt that he had the rights to the cartoon and was going to hire others to draw it cheaper. Walt soon there-after learned that Mintz through his operative in Los Angeles had approached and lured away 2/3rds his work force to work directly for him. Some of these cartoonists were long standing friends of his that he paid to come from Kansas City to Los Angeles. On the way back by train from New York to Los Angeles Walt had a stop in St. Louis and telephoned back to his brother Roy. Roy shared even worse news. The loan they had phone the bank was cancelled after they learned that Disney had lost the Oswald account. Walt then got back on the train to finish the trip to Los Angeles. This meant he would not have the money to make payroll on Friday or to pay any of their upcoming due bills including rent. He had a habit to doodle when he was nervous. He also had another habit that he would think of a solution to his problems before sleep so he could sleep. Walt had gone bankrupt twice before and dreaded the possibility of a third failure. His father whose recently toured his studio said that it would make a good hospital after he want bankrupt again. His father never believed that drawing little animals on paper was a “real” job and did not give his son any credit. Walt was thinking on that train what his father was going to say to him now upon a third failing business. Well in his nervousness he drew for a first time a little mouse with a quirky smile. He named him Mortimer. His wife later suggested a change to the name Mickey. He thought in his head at that time that Mortimer was the solution to all his current problems. He began the first sketches that led to Plane Crazy and Steamboat Willie. He then went to sleep convinced that everything was going to be alright. Some may say this was delusional. A guy with no money that had gone bankrupt twice before believing that a mouse he just drew was going to save the day.

“My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe

there is a core from which we obtain

knowledge, strength and inspiration. I have not

penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I

know that it exists.”

― Nikola Tesla


Innovation cannot occur in the absence of passion and, without it, you have little hope of creating breakthrough ideas. Passion fuels the rocket and vision creates the destination. They do not do what they do for money alone. It is a passion to make a difference. A believe that they can accomplish something great if they work hard enough and long enough.

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some

extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds; your

mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in

every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and

wonderful World. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become

alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far

than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” – Patanjali

The Mind of an Innovator Creator is open, curious, free of prejudice, optimistic, energetic, and most of all hungry to learn, explore and discover. Innovators do what they love and love what they do. They have passion and desire.

“Cherish your visions; cherish your ideals; cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your finest thoughts, for out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all heavenly environment; of these, if you remain true to them, your World will at last be built.” James Allen, As You Think


The persist in the face of doubt. They over-ride the need for social approval and group acceptance at a higher rate than the average person and dare to share with the world new ideas and thus subject themselves to risk and rejection. Non-innovators take the safe route and choose social acceptance over the fear of rejection and ridicule. Courage makes change and innovation possible. The courage to take a step that no one else has taken. Courage is vital to challenge status quo thinking and envision new breakthrough technologies and opportunities. The Mind of an Innovator is one that knows that people must take risks to solve big problems in unique ways. Most importantly, individuals need courage to live by their convictions even in the face of potential ridicule from friends, family, professional associates and harsh personal like reactions from people that do not even know personally. Sticking your neck out puts it at risk of being cut off. Great innovators display courage to go beyond established conservative boundaries and conventional wisdom and inspire those around them.

“Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run, it is easier.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“Do not live your life as a timid soul, my friend. Get into the arena, forget about the critics, and play big with the gifts of your days. Life is short and the years will slip away very quickly, like grains of sand passing through your fingers. There is but one failure in life and that is the failure to try. Every year I live I am more convinced that the waste of life lies in the love we have not given, the powers we have not used, the selfish prudence that will risk nothing, and which, shirking pain, missed happiness as well.” Robin Sharma

“Every project we undertake starts
with the same question: ‘How can
we do what has never been
done before?’”
—Stuart Hornery

“The brave may not live forever – but the overly cautious do not live at all!’ Richard Branson

“It’s better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.” Elizabeth Kenny


Innovators devote all the mind and body energy they have to innovating. There is no room the drag of energy from negativity, worry and fear. They are eternal optimists. Ronald Reagan often told the story of the boy that got a pile of manure for Christmas and with glee exclaimed “there must be a pony in there somewhere”! Innovators see the best in situations and people. They thus bring out the best in situations and people around them which makes them more productive than the average person. The Mind of Innovator Creator is a an optimistic, positive, trusting and loving mind that serves to bring out the best in the people around them. This is not always the case of course but data supports overwhelming great innovators are far more apt to be optimists than pessimists. That optimism conserves their energy through the difficult times.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a legendary saying by Peter F. Drucker.

Innovators create a positive culture of innovation which means an acceptance of mistakes and failures, an openness of new ideas, shared celebrations when milestones are met. Great innovators help teams innovate and create a culture that fosters continuous innovation from fearless constant experimentation. Great innovators recognize that even the most motivated and creative person will not be able to flourish if you don’t show them that their creativity is being appreciated and valued sincerely. The Mind of an Innovator has high emotional intelligence. They feel the pulse of motivation of those around them and learn to elevate people when that is best and to put the heat on when the timing is right for that. They do create a sense of urgency necessary to propel innovations forward and they do get people often to work harder and longer than they have ever before but they also know when to have fun and lighten up to avoid burn out. They read their people well and adjust their actions based on that read. They know that nothing hinders creativity and innovation more than tight rules and regulations. They are obsessed with progress on innovation not with rules.

“There are those that look at things the

way they are, and ask why? I dream of

things that never were, and ask why not?”

― Robert F. Kennedy

In summary the Mind of Innovator Creator is a mind that is curious. It is a mind that hungers for knowledge as a source of discovery. For them accumulated knowledge is like drinking water from a fire hose. They want as much as they possibly can get as fast as they can possibly get it. The are tinkers and experimenters. The hunger for the result. They enjoy the process of invention, creation and innovation and would not want to do anything else. They see the world with childhood sense of wonder and awe. They turn everything that comes their way into a toy of invention. A tool to play with to learn from to advance their innovations and their fun. They have open minds they serve to avoid limiting their thinking the way non-innovators do in trying to be grown mature adults. The Mind of an Innovator imposes less restrictions on itself than non-innovators do. They are not easily discouraged. Their enthusiasm is contagious. They good ones are alway selling their idea even before it is fully developed because some of the early feedback they get helps them perfect and refine their invention to the better. The have a high tolerance for mistakes, failures and rejection and keep working through the darkest moments when others simply give up. The Mind of an Innovator Creator is one that makes connections and establishes relationships that previously did not exist. They complete patterns and puzzles utilizing information, intuition and experiments results. They up theirs odds of serendipity through sheer volume of work. The switch directions quickly when needed and stay the course firm when needed. They keep lucky streaks alive. The Mind of the Innovator Creator somehow sees better than non-innovators the right barrier to focus on conquering. Innovators not only observe and learn from nature they are nourished by and do some of their best inventing thinking when alone in nature. They have a better capacity than non-innovators for visualizing results. They also use their dream time to advance forward their “experiments” within their minds. They understand and practice that inventions breeds invention. One discovery leads to another. They learn from doing and accomplish by doing. They think systematically seeing how their inventions fits into a system.

Thomas Edison took his observations of early cylindrical telegraph repeaters, printing presses and the lathe in his machine shop and developed a cylindrical phonograph which we developed with the idea of using it to record and store telephone messages. The first answering machine. He did not foresee at the time of invention that it would lead to the creation of the entire music recording industry and continue to advance to be improved to become the first movie projector creating the film industry. He was just trying to record a telephone call. This is how great inventions happen. In the doing. The Mind of Innovator Creator above all is a the Mind of a Doer and Experimenter. They move the world forward through action.