What generates innovation? What is its essence? What is the secret formula that makes one more innovative than others? Why do some people seem to have a mind-predisposition to forecasting the future?
The Harvard Business Review has the answer. After a 6-year-long study, a sample group of 25 innovative entrepreneurs – including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, eBay’s Pierre Omidyar, Dell Computer’s Michael Dell – 3000 innovators and 500 individuals who started innovative companies or invented new products, it was found that an innovation-driven mind is the result for one-third of genetics – innovative executives have been found to share the same type of creative intelligence – and for two-thirds of learning. Good news because this means that it can be trained.
Innovative entrepreneurs share a set of developed „discovery skills“, five abilities that allow their minds to browse through an ocean of possibilities and new concepts, while keeping their intuition alert to seize the right thought in the right moment. The five abilities are the following.
Associating is the ability to successfully connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems , or ideas from different fields. Like Steve Jobs has frequently pointed out „Creativity is connecting things“.
Innovative thinkers constantly question the status quo. Rather than settling down for a slightly better version, they challenge the assumptions. They have big capacity of abstraction, i.e. holding in mind two diametrically opposing ideas without panicking or settling down for just one, they’re able to produce a superior synthesis. The final thesis is reached by playing devil’s advocate and disagreeing with anything they are given and pushing opponents to find a deeper justification of their arguments.
Original business models are the result of discovery-driven executives while analyzing common every-day-life scenes; like anthropologists, innovative entrepreneurs, meticulously study the activities of their customers, suppliers and other companies, in order to gain insights about new ways of doing things.
Experimenters engage in interactive experiences, aiming for unconventional answers. Amazon’s Kindle started out as an experiment and is now transforming retail’s giant into an innovative electronics manufacturer. Intuit’s Scott Cook stresses out the importance of experimenting by saying that „our culture opens us to allowing lots of failures while harvesting the learning […] it’s what separates an innovation culture from a normal corporate culture.“
Innovative entrepreneurs leverage on networking to access new kind of ideas and perspectives which extends their own knowledge domains. They are aware that the revolutionary spark can be found, most likely, outside their industry specific field. The case of CPS technologies which developed a successful innovative ceramic composite by partnering up with sperm-freezing experts who knew how to skillfully prevent ice crystal growth on cells during freezing process.
As aformentioned, innovative entrepreneurship is a muscle that can be trained and grown. Therefore, along with the set of „discovery skills”, practice – trial and error – is the key of the innovation quest.
Like Edison said „I haven’t failed. I’ve simply found 10,000 ways that do not work.“