Normally, innovators invent something new (a company, product or service) or one that people didn’t realize they needed, but immediately resonates with people or those in a niche and growing industry.

But there’s also more to great innovation — and ultimately, it’s the ability to reimagine products that we already use. When people think of the most innovative companies in the world, they usually name behemoths like Google and Apple. However, there are other much smaller, lesser-known companies in various traditional and emerging industries that are creating or advancing cutting-edge technologies. They often get overlooked because their innovations are not always consumer-oriented.

The world needs innovators to survive, and some countries like the United States are  increasingly losing their competitive advantage. But our global economic competition is dependent on leaders and their ability to innovate.

We increase our capacity for innovation to capture trends, take advantage of new technologies and reenergize the manufacturing sector. We can provide opportunities to people who are disconnected across the globe and accelerate business growth.

But what makes a person innovative? If we want companies across our industries to be more innovative, we need innovative leaders; those who can turn new ideas and tech into invaluable assets that can help transform business, and ultimately our economy.

Many leaders have embodied a handful of characteristics that have helped them pursue seemingly impossible innovations that many thought out of the norm of invention. Here are some of the characteristics that form the foundations of an innovative mindset.

  1. Being innovative means having a different approach or doing things that have never been done before. Innovators embrace this idea and create environments where employees receive the tools and resources to challenge the status quo, push boundaries and achieve growth.
  2. Innovators are authentic leaders committed to creating dynamic, highly productive organizations where values are centered around the mission. They are committed to hiring people who are passionate about their work and they give them opportunities to grow with the clarity to complete their roles and responsibilities.
  3. Innovators know innovation doesn’t start in a bubble. Leaders value and create sustainable and active networks of people, assets and companies. Many innovators see collaboration as a unique opportunity to identify the company’s core strengths and weaknesses, opportunities for growth and threats.
  4. They value diversity. Innovate leaders realize it takes many different points of view to fully understand a global product and the complexity of economic, technological and other challenges.
  5. Innovators have evolved from traditional leadership models that implemented high-control, low-trust models and instead lead by directing from a central base of their organizations. They also inspire and empower employees to be creative and develop their skills to advance their careers.
  6. Innovators don’t take the easy road. They take on the challenge of figuring out more complex solutions, even with higher risks.
  7. Innovators understand innovation is once in a lifetime accomplishment. Any company, start-ups or small business alike, has to continuously reach above and beyond what they have done before to stay competitive. This allows innovators to effectively advocate for change as they know how to maneuver through resistance to new ideas.
  8. Innovators can break with norms. Innovators push back the traditional wisdom that causes people to think in a box. Customers don’t always know what they want and they’re aware of that.
  9. They avoid hyper-focusing on traditional business data, which can inhibit companies from making important breakthroughs. Innovators understand how to prevent this, but also to let their success speak for itself.
  10. Innovators ongoingly contribute new or unconventional ideas to the team. Since it takes place on so many levels, the big breakthrough will always get the attention. However, if we want innovation to flourish, we all need to continuously support and encourage innovation on a smaller, but broader scale. Leaders have the opportunity to ensure companies can identify innovation collaborators and thinkers when they see it and foster it to everyone’s advantage.