Thursday's Thoughts on Leadership: The Innovator’s DNA

I’m currently at an event hosted by The Realty Alliance, a network of North American’s elite real estate firms in Boston, Massachusetts.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Hal Gregersen, a professor of leadership at INSEAD Hal Gregersenand one of the authors of The Innovator’s DNA, a book that just might change the way you think about ideas and innovation.

The idea for this book came from an eight-year collaborative study to understand what makes one person more creative than another.  Exactly how do visionary entrepreneurs like Apple’s Steve Jobs, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, eBay’s Pierre Omidyar, and P&G’s A.G Lafley come up with their groundbreaking ideas?  

The Innovator’s DNA may just help answer this question by building on what is already commonly known about disruptive innovation.  Breaking this down allows an individual to develop the skills necessary to move progressively from idea to impact and become a more innovative person.

In the book, the authors outline five discovery skills that distinguish innovative entrepreneurs and executives from ordinary managers.

  1. Associating – Connecting the unconnected across questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields
  2. Questioning – Asking questions that challenge common wisdom
  3. Observing – Scrutinizing customer, supplier, and competitor behaviors to identify new ways of doing things
  4. Networking – Meeting people with different ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives
  5. Experimenting – Constructing interactive experiences that provoke unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge

The book provides a self-assessment to rate your own inventor’s DNA based on these skills.  Taking this assessment and practicing these actions, triggers associational thinking to deliver new business, products, services, and/or processes. These behaviors coupled with the cognitive skill of creativity is what generates innovative ideas.

The Innovator’s DNA is definitely a book worth putting on your reading list if you’re interested in strengthening your innovation skills and getting ahead of the game in any industry.