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Issue: 67 - Jul 15, 2014
Do You Have What it Takes to Innovate?
By: Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ
Dr. Phil Zeltzman1

Innovators are these rare people who have the ability to turn apparent hurdles into opportunities. Hurdles include a constantly changing field, your friendly competition, the economy, as well as increasing complexity in just about every aspect of our professional and personal lives.

In the audio-book “Breakthrough Thinking,” the authors* describe ten skills that define innovators.

1. Innovators are opportunity-oriented

Instead of being victims of circumstances, innovators are always on the lookout to identify and solve problems, to take advantage of market inefficiencies and to provide products and services to customers or clients. Apple is a classic innovator.  Their executives created entire markets. They tell people what they need. I mean seriously, do you remember how miserable life was before the iPad, the iPod and the iPhone? How did we survive without them?  How did we survive without staring at a screen 12 hours a day? We didn’t ask for them.  Innovators at Apple gave them to the world.

2. Innovators are strategists

Once they have chosen a specific goal, innovators come up with a plan to reach it.  Step 1 should be done by day X, step 2 by day Y, etc.

3. Innovators loathe prejudice

In their quest to identify opportunities and reach goals, innovators keep an open mind. They shun prejudice and preconceived ideas. Nothing is self-evident.

4. Innovators are trend spotters

Constantly on the lookout for new information and ideas, innovators spend a significant part of their time reading a variety of material, in and outside their area of expertise.

5. Innovators are idea-oriented

Innovators are not inherently more creative than others, but once they have an idea, they do whatever it takes to make it happen.  They are not merely dreamers, they are action takers.

6. Innovators rely on intuition

Despite technological advances, innovators still rely on good old intuition to guide them.

7. Innovators are extraordinarily persistent

Innovators don’t give up when they face hurdles.  They are not giver-uppers.  They are unstoppable, persistent, relentless action-taking machines.

8. Innovators are incredibly resourceful

Innovators always seem to discover little-known pieces of information that helps them overcome obstacles.

9. Innovators are superior team builders

Having an idea, a vision or a goal is just the beginning.  Assembling a great team is a must for innovators to succeed.

10. Innovators are feedback-oriented

By frequently surveying customers or clients, innovators are able to tweak products and protocols and services.

So there you go. These 10 skills can turn you into a successful innovator who can take your clinic (or your life) to the next level, improve your community or change the world - one idea at a time.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound (”

* Breakthrough Thinking: Strategies for Winning Big in Business (Hachette Assorted Authors) by Denis Waitley and Robert Tucker (2007).