If you’re in the brand-building business, you’ve probably noticed that the world you operate in looks dramatically different than it used to. For years, brands have been dealing with the acceleration of competitive threats, the emergence of new media, a changing consumer landscape, and the ever-present push to do more with less. Albeit daunting, those are challenges that can be met by savvy brands who have been able to maintain a multi-faceted approach while staying true to themselves in the process. But now it’s different; brands are faced with navigating a turbulent future where questions of transparency, ethics, politics and identity are at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Being savvy and consistent might be enough to help a brand exist, but in order to thrive, brands will need to matter.

If this sounds like a familiar story, I think I know why. Best-selling author Donald Miller tells us that every great story has a few common elements: a character who has a problem and a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action, resulting in failure or success. For brands, some parts of this story have been repeating themselves; but the problems for brands have grown more complex, and so the guides they rely upon need to evolve as well. In order to keep achieving success, their guides must be able to create new ideas that matter, to turn new ideas into reality, and to influence others to believe in those ideas. That’s why brands need innovators now more than ever.

And here’s the good news: innovators have distinct characteristics, and brand-builders can develop these characteristics in themselves and their teams. Here they are:

Innovators have Creative Intelligence: An innovator must have the ability to create new methods and ideas. But in order for those ideas to matter, they can’t be built in a vacuum – they must answer meaningful questions, connect dots, and incorporate diverse perspectives. The book The Innovator’s DNA describes the five key skills of disruptive innovators. These discovery skills – Associating, Questioning, Observing, Experimenting, and Networking – help leverage both sides of the human brain to create new ideas. These skills ladder up to what he calls “Creative Intelligence,” and are the very characteristics that set innovators apart and enable their ideas to have meaning and value.

Innovators have Grit: The thing that sets innovators apart from inventors is that innovators don’t just come up with better ideas – they can turn them into reality. And that means they persevere through setbacks, adversity and failure to produce ideas that can actually work. Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit, debunks the myth that those of us with the most natural talent find the most success. An innovator isn’t just smart and fantastically creative – an innovator has grit.

Innovators are Storytellers: At the end of the day, great ideas must have someone believe in them to truly matter… and new ideas aren’t always easy to buy into. An innovator has the ability to influence others to care about and believe in their ideas, not just through facts, but by appealing to their emotions. As storytellers, innovators cultivate trust and confidence in their ideas by connecting the “why” with the “what” and “how.”

At Spicefire, we are an Agency of Innovators – we are the sum of our people. We seek out individuals who exhibit the characteristics of innovators, and actively foster those qualities in our environment. We live to help brands forge new paths – let us be your guide.