Innovator’s DNA: Some are born, others can learn

23 Jan 2012 Sandeep Mehta

A couple of related articles in INSEAD Knowledge (Innovator’s DNA and Innovator’s DNA: Some are born, others can learn) are quite interesting:

Some people are born innovators. Others can become innovators, providing they follow some simple guidelines. That’s the thesis of ‘The Innovator’s DNA’, just published by Harvard Business Review Press, by Hal Gregersen, INSEAD Senior Affiliate Professor of Leadership, with Jeffrey H. Dyer of Brigham Young University and Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School.”

The premise is that we can all learn to be more innovative:

Research involving identical twins suggests that only about 20-25 per cent of our creativity ability is geneticically driven. “This means the other 75-80 per cent comes from the world we live in…

 Here is my takeaway about five skills that can make us more innovative:

  • Observing: Innovators are “intense observers.” They learn from observing others.
  • Questioning:  Innovators ask questions about what they have observed to find out if there is a better solution. 
  • Associating: Innovators make unexpected connections and combine known pieces into new solutions (such as iPhone or iPod).
  • Experimenting: Innovators experiment with solutions to potential problems to find the optimum.
  • Networking: “Innovators are intentional about finding diverse people who are just the opposites of who they are, that they talk to, to get ideas that seriously challenge their own.”
Here is all of it put together in a nice summary:

Take notes when observing others. “Step back from (the problem or situation), talk to people: ‘What did you learn? What surprised you? What was interesting?’ If you like to talk to people, talk to somebody different: maybe on another floor, a different building, a different office, another country, but talk to somebody who’s 180 degrees different from you. These are things that we can do and they don’t take a lot of time to do them.”

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