March 5, 2013

5 Traits of Top Business Innovators

Australia ranks 21 on the Global Innovation 2011 Index. That is six places behind our smaller neighbour, New Zealand.

Innovation pays. It is innovation, doing things differently and finding new ways to connect the dots in our complex world, that accounts for fame and fortunes made by some extraordinary companies and top business innovators. And yet, ‘what Is innovation’ is the most Googled of all innovation related keywords.

One CEO I knew took every opportunity to remind people “I want to pay the $50,000 prize for a great idea rather than reward twenty dollar suggestions.” He knew that the future of his business depended on great ideas, the disruptive, transformational kind. Everything else is just essential maintenance. But, did he know how to take it to the next level and make it happen? Did he know how to create the environment to breed such ideas? Did he know how to tap into the collective bains; set them on the right course and energize them?

Children learn all the time. Fast. It seems that they are equipped with five innate tools that allow them to learn and grow:

  • Observation that leads to finding opportunities to act
  • Curiosity that enables learning
  • Courage to ask questions and try things
  • Lack of preconceived ideas and judgement – imagination that is not separated from reality
  • Playing with everything (that proverbial box that makes a better toy than the toy itself).

There are five characteristics that separate top business innovators from ordinary managers, according the book, ‘The Innovator’s DNA’ by Clayton M. Christensen, Jeff Dyer and Hal B. Gregersen. The book title is somewhat misleading as these traits are not a genetic endowment of the lucky few. Anyone can ‘adapt’ their behaviour by applyint these rules to weave the code for innovation into his or her company.

These five skills of of top business innovators look surprisingly similar to the skills that allow children to progress:

  1. Questioning allows innovators to challenge the status quo and consider new possibilities;
  2. Observing helps innovators detect small details—in the activities of customers, suppliers and other companies—that suggest new ways of doing things
  3. Networking permits innovators to gain radically different perspectives from individuals with diverse backgrounds;
  4. Experimenting prompts innovators to relentlessly try out new experiences, take things apart and test new ideas;
  5. Associational thinking—drawing connections among questions, problems or ideas from unrelated fields—is triggered by questioning, observing, networking and experimenting and is the catalyst for creative ideas.

The world will be ruled by companies that are lead by people with these skills. What these companies have in common is Culture that is non-dogmatic, willing to scrap conventional ideas, willing to fail (Google’s search team runs up to 200 experiments at any one time.) They know what their company stands for!

Great CEOs don’t need to be innovtive, creative or mavericks – but to create and lead great companies, they need to be able to provide a clear Vision for people to aspire to and create an organisation that is capable of providing an environment for innovation.

Creating a culture of innovation is the way to generating big-prize ideas, over and over. It is a process but also an exciting journey. Once you have shown people where you are going, they will want to follow.

Are you part of a company on the innovation journey? Are you striving every day to be a top business innovator in your industry? What is holding your company, or your own part in the process from achieving better results faster? Are you asking the right questions? Do you know who to ask?

Ask InnoFuture


JoJoInnoFuture helps organisations build innovation culture as a way-of-life by helping them develop individual context based on their Vision and non-negotiable principles to guide and inspire people in their daily jobs. In the ever changing world of business models InnoFuture remains unbiased because there is no one-fits-all-business-model or silver bullet tool you can give to your people out of context. Instead, we continually explore and curate emerging concepts, tools and expertise; and connect business innovators with the resources they need to get results. If you want to get started or deepen your organisation’s innovation capacity through innovative culture then we can help.

Contact: Margaret Manson or 0407 661 130.

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