“Innovative entrepreneurship is not a genetic predisposition, it is an active endeavor,” states The Innovator’s DNA authors Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen. They explain by understanding, practicing, and modeling the innovator’s DNA, companies can find ways to more successfully develop the creative spark in everyone. Learn the 5 discovery skills that make up an innovator’s DNA and practice them daily.
In this HBR article, The Innovator’s DNA, authors Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen, searched for answers and undertook a six-year study to uncover the origins of creative—and often disruptive—business strategies in particularly innovative companies. Their goal was to put innovative entrepreneurs under the microscope, examining when and how they came up with the ideas on which their businesses were built. They especially wanted to examine how these innovators differ from other executives and entrepreneurs: Someone who buys a McDonald’s franchise may be an entrepreneur, but building an Amazon requires different skills altogether. Over six years they studied the habits of 25 innovative entrepreneurs and surveyed more than 3,000 executives and 500 individuals who had started innovative companies or invented new products.
They discovered, the most important skill to practice is questioning. Asking “Why” and “Why not” can help spark the other discovery skills. The study found that innovators must consistently act different to think different.
Let’s look at the 5 discovery skills the authors suggest to cultivate innovative thinking:
- Discovery Skill 1: Associating
Associating, or the ability to connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas from different fields, is central to the innovator’s DNA. As Steve Jobs frequently observed, “Creativity is connecting things.”
- Discovery Skill 2: Questioning
To question effectively, innovative entrepreneurs do the following: Ask “Why” and “Why not” and “What if”
- Discovery Skill 3: Observing
Discovery-driven executives produce uncommon business ideas by scrutinizing common phenomena, particularly the behavior of potential customers.
- Discovery Skill 4: Experimenting
Innovative entrepreneurs actively try out new ideas by creating prototypes and launching pilots.
- Discover Skill 5: Networking
Devoting time and energy to finding and testing ideas through a network of diverse individuals gives innovators a radically different perspective.