The chemical response to risk and uncertainty may be hardwired in our brains, but that doesn’t mean you are either born an innovator or not. Innovative capacity can be learned.
Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and the late Clay Christensen spent years investigating the characteristics of successful innovators and broadly divide the skills of innovation into two categories: [removed] .
Delivery skills include quantitative analysis, planning, detail-oriented implementation and disciplined execution. These are certainly essential characteristics for success in many occupations, but for innovation, discovery must come before delivery.
Discovery skills are the ones more involved in developing ideas and managing uncertain situations. The most notable are:
- The ability to draw connections between seemingly disparate ideas and contexts.
- A tendency to question assumptions and the status quo.
- A habit of looking at what is contributing to a problem before rushing to a solution.
- The frequent use of systematic experimentation to prove hypotheses about cause and effect.
- The ability to network and broaden a set of relationships, even without an intentional purpose.
Like any skills, these can be learned and cultivated through a combination of guidance, practice and experience. By asking the right questions, being observant or mindful, experimenting and networking with the right supporters, innovators will be more likely to identify opportunity and succeed.