5 Characteristics of Leaders That Innovate

by Jay Deragon on 12/17/2013

Innovation is changing the way markets work.  We are witnessing a connected and informed consumer engaging innovatively using technology to transform the behavior of the marketplace.  While technology has initiated the innovation it is the consumer who has accelerated the next disruption through creative adoption.

The acceleration of innovation is a dynamic that is happening in real-time between creators and users of innovative technology. Information and knowledge is readily available to those that seek it. Real-time collaboration with a few or many regardless of place, nationality, experience or education is happening.

The real disruptive innovation comes not from the technology rather from what is being learned and the rate of new discovery being achieved by users.

Examining the DNA of Discovering Innovation

In The Innovator’s DNA, authors Jeff Dyer, Hal Gergersen, and Clayton M. Christensen build on the idea of disruptive innovation to outline the five discovery skills that distinguish the Steve Jobses and Jeff Bezoses of the world from the run-of-the-mill corporate managers. These characteristics are not simply a genetic endowment of the lucky few.  Note the author’s comment: Anyone can change his behavior to improve creative impact and to weave the code for innovation into his or her company (discovery). The five characteristics of disruptive innovators include:

  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.

Given these findings it is clearly indicates that today’s innovators are people using technology to enhance their lives and the lives of others by applying the five skills that produced innovation to the use of the innovation.  It is the rate of actuating these skills which accelerates use of the technology that leads to further discovery and innovation.

There are three leadership dynamics that apply to creating, enabling and using innovation to flourish. The first comes from leaders who create the innovation and the second dynamic comes from those that enable its use and the third comes from those that actually use it and create more innovation.

In the construct of most organizations the leaders are the middlemen that either enable or block the ability for innovation to flourish.

28 Responses to Innovation from Leaders That Kill It

Gijs van Wulfen writes How Companies Kill Their Best Ideas Every one of us knows why creativity and innovation are stopped in our organizations. It happens every day, everywhere in the world. Every time a good idea is killed, it’s one too many. Here is his list of 28 idea killers commonly given by so-called leaders.

  1. Yes, but…
  2. ‘It already exists!
  3. Our customers won’t like that!
  4. We don’t have time…
  5. NO!
  6. It’s not possible…
  7. It’s too expensive!
  8. Let’s be realistic…
  9. That’s not logical…
  10. We need to do more research…
  11. THERE”S NO BUDGET…
  12. I’m not creative…
  13. We don’t want to make mistakes…
  14. The management won’t agree…
  15. GET REAL…
  16. It’s not my responsibility…
  17. It’s too difficult to master…
  18. THAT’S TOO BIG A CHANGE…
  19. The market is not ready yet…
  20. Let’s keep it under consideration…
  21. It is just like…
  22. The older generation will not use it…
  23. WE ARE TOO SMALL FOR THAT…
  24. It might work in other places but not here…
  25. SINCE WHEN ARE YOU THE EXPERT?
  26. That’s for the future…
  27. There are no staff members available…
  28. IT IS NOT SUITABLE FOR OUR CLIENTS…

The 5 characteristics of leaders that innovate are more reflective of the creators and users than they are of today’s organizational leaders who ought to be the enablers.  Innovation also applies to leading.

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