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Wozniak: Know who you are as an innovator

Great innovation is sometimes borne from lack of funds and the ability to think differently from the rest of the market, says Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
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Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor on

MIAMI--Innovators have to fiercely respect their goals and not fear straying from the norm, says famed inventor Steve Wozniak.

In his keynote speech at Software AG's Innovation World 2008 here Wednesday, Apple's co-founder recounted his fledgling career as a young computer programmer starting the company with present CEO Steve Jobs.

Wozniak said his beginnings as an engineer at Hewlett-Packard gave him access to resources such as hardware parts which he needed. He eventually had to leave HP, when he approached the company to help him make a line of personal computers but was turned down.

"They were a great big company, but couldn't stray from their ordinary line of business," said Wozniak. The personal computer product he had envisioned eventually became the popular Apple II.

Wozniak related how he encountered resistance from the HP engineers when he tried to share a method he had discovered, for working out a particularly error-prone equation. In spite of proving that his workaround would be faster and easier to help solve the equation, his colleagues could not switch to his new methodology, Wozniak said.

"People don't like change," he said.

The message he put forward, directed at Software AG's partners and developers present at the conference, highlighted that the path to being an innovator is understanding that one does not have to seek validation from everyone to achieve personal goals.

"You don't have to convince people to do everything like you. Do what you want to do--you have to know who you are," he said, adding that innovation is sometimes also "squeezed" out of a lack of resources.

"When you don't have a lot of money, you [want to] find out new and innovative ways to get the job done," he noted.

Victoria Ho of ZDNet Asia reported from Software AG's Innovation World 2008 in Miami, Florida.

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