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What Makes Innovation?

Topic: Entrepreneur Evangelist,Growing Your Business | Comments (1)

Posted on December 11, 2009 by admin

Top SecretCNN recently reported that researchers from Harvard Business School, Insead and Brigham Young University have just completed a six-year study of more than 3,000 executives and 500 innovative entrepreneurs, and say they have identified five skills that drive innovation:

Associating: The ability to connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems or ideas from different fields.

Questioning: Innovators constantly ask questions that challenge the common wisdom. They ask “why?”, “why not?” and “what if?”

Observing: Discovery-driven executives scrutinize common phenomena, particularly the behavior of potential customers.

Experimenting: Innovative entrepreneurs actively try out new ideas by creating prototypes and launching pilots.

Networking: innovators go out of their way to meet people with different ideas and perspectives.

I find the results of this study interesting, if not earth-shatteringly shocking.  What’s even more interesting, however, is that CNN’s article also comes with some recommendations about how to develop those skills, even for those of us who don’t consider ourselves tremendous ‘innovators’ to begin with.


  • Teach yourself to think differently by deliberately taking opportunities to act differently
  • Identify a problem and writing nothing but questions about it for 10 minutes a day for 30 days
  • Identify a business, customer, supplier, or client, and spend a day or two watching how they work so you can better understand their issues
  • Build a diverse network, and understand people’s backgrounds, interests and strengths; and then make sure to remain in touch with them regularly

Since most of us are creatures of habit (to one extent or another), taking opportunities to break behavioral patterns and act differently can be hard.  But it is the corollary to the old saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So, sane or not, if you want different results, then make sure you do something different.

Alora Chistiakoff is an entrepreneur, content strategist and project manager who has been developing online business and technology for startups for more than a decade.  She co-owns The Indigo Heron Group, Inc., a content strategy firm in Austin, Texas.