Where does innovation come from?

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management,Profiles in Leadership

Creative breakthroughs often require the wisdom of teams. A lone visionary can plant the seeds, but real innovation occurs when outside-the-box thinkers combine forces.

Peter Diamandis has built his entrepreneurial career around gathering creative people and letting them loose to chase lofty goals. The 51-year-old founded the X Prize Foundation, a nonprofit that runs competitions to identify the most ambitious ideas and technologies to help humanity.  

Years ago, Diamandis met British science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. He learned from Clarke that to advance space exploration (Diamandis’ longtime passion), the key is convening like-minded innovators from around the world who share enthusiasm and big dreams.

Assembling a community of passionate experts, Diamandis has enlisted them to address huge challenges ranging from sending civilians into space to making electricity, water and health care available in remote parts of the globe. He invites dy­­namic thinkers such as Bill Gates, Larry Page (Google’s co-founder) and moviemaker James Cameron (“Avatar,” “Titanic”) to brainstorm together and sponsor bold experiments.

“I’ve become very optimistic in the ability of people around the world outside the normal channels to do extraordinary things,” he says. “Getting a team that’s got some nontraditional, smart people plugged into it makes a difference.”

Diamandis doesn’t innovate by daydreaming. He prefers to chat with others or extract insights from books. His idea for the X Prize occurred when he read The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles Lindbergh. The famous aviator wrote that his desire to push the bounds of air travel was stoked by a $25,000 prize offered in 1919 to the first person to fly nonstop from New York City to Paris or vice versa.

— Adapted from “Abundantly Clear: Peter Diamandis Looks to the Future,” John Ostdick, Success.

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