Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Innovative Thinking?

By Virgil R. Carter

Is innovation important in your field?  Is your organization considered innovative?  Just how do innovators think? In a recent article, Harvard Business Review contributing editor Bronwyn Fryer reported on an interview on innovative thinking.  Fryer conducted a question-and-answer session with Professors Jeff Dyer of Brigham Young University and Hal Gregersen of Insead to explore how the "Innovators' DNA works”.

Dyer and Gregersen conducted a six-year study surveying 3,000 creative executives and conducting an additional 500 individual interviews. The study found five "discovery skills" that distinguish the executives.

--Associating:  a cognitive skill that allows creative people to make connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas

--Questioning: an ability to ask "what if", "why", and "why not" questions that  
challenge the status quo and open up the bigger picture

--Closely observe details:  particularly the details of people's behavior. –   Experiment:  trying on new experiences and exploring new worlds

--Ability to experiment:  always trying on new experiences and exploring new worlds

--Networking:  connecting with smart people who have little in common with them, but from whom they can learn

“Overall, associating is the key skill because new ideas aren't created without connecting problems or ideas in ways that they haven't been connected before”, according to Dyer.

Dyer commented that one might summarize all of the skills they’ve noted in one word: "inquisitiveness." “I spent 20 years studying great global leaders, and that was the big common denominator. It's the same kind of inquisitiveness you see in small children”, he commented.

Dyer asked the executives in their study to tell them about how they came up with a strategic or innovative idea. That one was easy for the creative executives, but surprisingly difficult for the more traditional ones. Interestingly, all the innovative entrepreneurs also talked about being triggered, or having what one might call "eureka" moments. In describing how they came up with a product or business idea, they would use phrases like "I saw someone doing this, or I overheard someone say that, and that's when it hit me."

In conclusion, Dyer added, “We also believe that the most innovative entrepreneurs were very lucky to have been raised in an atmosphere where inquisitiveness was encouraged. We were stuck by the stories they told about being sustained by people who cared about experimentation and exploration.”

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