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Work In Progress – Breaking Boundaries by @projectmaven

Work in Progress: The Life of an Entrepreneur in Beta

This is a series dedicated to the new entrepreneur. Welcome to the life you’ve always dreamed of creating.

Breaking Boundaries to be Creative in Business

Personally, I find it tremendously exciting to push boundaries. I was one of those kids who insisted on coloring outside the lines, questioning authority, and doing things on my own time frame. It’s tough growing up that way. Childhood is one big training for following the rules, going with the program, and learning to do things the “proper” way.

As a young musician, I was trained in theory and technique. I spent years learning how to play scales and arpeggios, practicing from pieces of sheet music and training my embouchure to blow air in a particular, focused manner across the hole in the mouthpiece of my flute. I’ll never forget the first time I was playing a fast piece of music, and I experienced the sensation of my fingers flying across the keys faster than I could visualize what they were doing. It was as if they had developed minds of their own.

Years later, when I began improvising, a whole new world opened up for me. It was as if all of the rules I had learned over the years were suddenly available to me as a grab bag of ingredients to indulge my smallest whims and my greatest fantasies. I could create music that danced around a melody or a familiar rhythm, and have a conversation with other musicians who were doing their own quirky dances in sound.

It was my earliest experience with collaboration.

Innovation in business is kind of like this. We spend years learning the rules, studying the most successful companies and learning their best practices and profitable strategies, until we can apply what we have learned in service of our own passion, our own unique vision. And sometimes we just follow a hunch, and we end up lucky enough to hit upon a formula for success.

If you really want to make a difference and shake up an industry, you have to be brave enough to follow your own vision. But business has rules, and many business people are hesitant to take chances when it comes to their own company. This becomes especially clear when looking for clients for new, innovative services. Unless you can really connect the dots and map out a clear path to the outcome they are seeking, others may be hesitant to explore new territory with you, until you can show them a track record of success.

This is where it becomes vital to understand a few basic things:

1) Find the right collaborators. They are out there - your team, your tribe. You just have to locate one another. Keep sending out smoke signals! Keep talking, writing, sharing your ideas and engaging others in conversation about your vision. When you find the kindred spirits who were meant to be working with you, trust me, you’ll recognize one another.

2) Be confident. It’s your vision, damnit! You can see it, you can feel it. Don’t let anybody knock you off our path. If you truly believe it can happen, then you will find a way.

3) Be flexible. Well yeah, it’s your vision, but it might not roll out in exactly the way you thought. Be prepared to adjust your methodology as you go along. When I was studying documentary filmmaking, a great filmmaker named Jennifer Fox taught us about the concept of praxis, whereby you start with a theory, test it through observation (shooting footage) and then revise your ideas to fit what you’ve learned along the way. It’s a perfect metaphor for developing your business vision.

4) Be patient. Things take time. You may need alternate sources of support while you are building your company, your team, your product. It’s OK. It will be ready when it’s ready. You can’t serve a half-baked souffle, so don’t try to launch your enterprise until it’s set the way you want it!

5) Don’t be afraid to be an innovator. The biggest innovators are always the ones who weren’t afraid to break the boundaries and make up a new set of rules to call their own. If you’ve done your homework, developed a solid plan, created a good team to support your vision, and are ready to think on your feet, then it’s time to go out there and make it happen!

How are you pushing the boundaries in your work? Are you ready to be an innovator?

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