How do innovators come up with groundbreaking new ideas?

If it were possible to discover the inner workings of the masters’ minds, what could the rest of us learn about how innovation really happens?

Authors Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and innovation guru Clayton M. Christensen, teamed up on an eight-year study to find answers to these questions. They conducted extensive interviews with over 5,000 inventors, game-changing innovators, and executives, including Apple’s Steve Jobs, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, eBay’s Pierre Omidyar, and P&G’s A.G. Lafley.

In searching for the secret sauce of innovation, they discovered top executives at most companies do not feel personally responsible for coming up with strategic innovations. They facilitate the innovation process. In stark contrast, senior executives of the most innovative companies—a mere 15% in the  study—don’t delegate creative work. They do it themselves. How do they do it?
Specific patterns of behaviour emerged over and over: They found that specific patterns of behavior emerged over and over: one’s ability to generate innovative ideas is not merely a function of the mind, but also a function of behaviors.
Innovators DNA

You could be as innovative and impactful as the most creative people in business – if you change your behavior. Five behaviors, to be exact, which comprise the building blocks of the “Innovator’s DNA”:

  1. Questioning: Inquiry that provokes new insights, connections, possibilities, and directions. Posing queries that challenge common wisdom. Lead by asking questions.
  2. Associating: Drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields. Connecting the unconnected to produce new ideas
  3. Observing : Develop visual literacy —the ability to observe, think critically and make meaning from images and information presented. Scrutinize the behavior of customers, suppliers, and competitors to identify new ways of doing things.
  4. Networking and collaborating: Meeting people with different ideas and perspectives. Thinking together, across cultures, networks and disciplines to  cross-pollinate ideas:
  5. Experimenting: Constructing interactive experiences and provoking unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge. Taking conceptual risks.

I like the emphasis the authors place on behaviours because it shifts our perceptions from thinking, to behaving. Your ability to generate innovative ideas is not merely a function of the mind, but also a function of behaviours.

The book gives examples of five innovation behaviors in action from leaders at Amazon, Apple, Google, Skype, and Virgin Group – and mercifully the stories are concise and informative. Each chapter is organized to help you build on these behaviours to maximize your creative impact.

“Key to creating innovative organizations and teams is to populate them with innovative people, processes that encourage the five innovative skills, and philosophies (a culture) that give employees the courage to try out new ideas and take smart risks.” — Dyer et al

If you are well versed on the literature about creativity and innovation you will be familiar with the attributes described in this book. The Innovators DNA presents a fresh new perspective, by positioning these attributes as behaviors, or habits you can develop, rather than traits you were born with.

Buy The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators on Amazon