I was lucky recently to interview Shaun Pulfrey, the creator and owner of the Tangle Teezer company. I was struck by how important his story about self-belief has been to the creation of the Tangle Teezer products. Having struggled with formal education, along with receiving messages about respecting your elders and betters, it would have been easy for Shaun to doubt himself. But his desire to innovate and create products that wouldn’t damage hair was too strong and, at first single handedly, he set about turning his ideas into reality.
So, let’s distinguish an Innovator from an Entrepreneur. An Entrepreneur starts by looking out into the market – where is there a gap? Or where is there an existing product I can apply to a parallel market (Netflix is a subscription service that existed for films and TV, which Audible piggy-backed on with its subscription service for audio books)? Or how can I put two products together (Uber Eats uses Uber cabs to deliver food to people’s homes)? Entrepreneurs wouldn’t dream of starting unless they knew where the market opportunity was.
Innovators on the other hand see stuff differently and are prepared to risk challenging the norms. They want to create things that either don’t exist but would just be interesting to design, or that solve a real problem regardless of whether there is a market opportunity for what they design. The idea comes before the sale.
To be an Innovator you have to have the courage to believe enough in your idea that you will risk following it through, even when it might fail. And certainly, the innovators we talk to describe their relentless desire, or the itch they have to scratch, which means they can’t stop creating wherever they are or whatever is going on around them.
But they also describe that sense of self-doubt or fragile self-belief that means any criticism from others, or just the feeling that they haven’t done justice to the idea that was in their minds, can often lead them to back off or just give up.
While low self-belief is very common for Innovators, developing much deeper self-belief is key to being able to bring the great ideas to fruition and launch them to the world. Shaun talks about the moment he decided that his product was good enough and his decision that he didn’t need to listen to the voices of his elders who had doubted him. He could believe in himself and make this work. Our founder, Mark Loftus, at CharacterScope similarly talks about how he has learned and is still learning to trust in himself and his ideas so that even if they are not ‘perfect’ he can believe that they are so much better than not having them out there at all.
What we have come to realise and is personified in Shaun Pulfrey is that when innovators have high self-belief alongside high humility it is a particularly powerful combination. As Shaun says, you have to get close to the people giving you feedback, to really hear what they are saying and to take their feedback into your creations. For feedback not to cause you to give up but to serve as the inspiration to improve and spark the next creation.
Listen to Shaun’s full interview here.
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