December 21, 2009

How innovative people think and do things

I came across a really interesting conversation between Stuart Pallister and Hal Gregersen about the innovator’s DNA. Based on a six-year-long study into disruptive innovation involving some 3,500 executives, Hal Gregersen found 5 discovery skills you need. It would be great to hear your thoughts.

# 1: Associating
Combine pieces of what may seem disparate pieces of information until you have a new idea.

# 2: Observing
For example, watching people do a certain thing/job and finding out what frustrates and irritates them can lead to ideas for a new product or service that can solve the particular problem more effectively. In this example, I observed that some people have a hard time lifting up lids of garbage containers. I wrote a posting about it here mentioning that improvements have been made, as the lids of the old garbage containers were even heavier. The newest solution for getting rid of garbage, that I have seen in Zürich, not also has a better design - it is also even more customer friendly, I noticed. See for yourself by clicking here.

# 3: Experimenting
When things break, try to fix it yourself. For example, when I was a kid, I learned much about bicycles by fixing my bike myself when it broke. In education, for example, I work on continuously trying out new ways and tools of making education better.

# 4: Questioning
To innovate, search for something you’re curious to know more about - and ask questions such as "What if..", "Why..?", "Why not..?", "How could..?"

# 5: Networking
To get new ideas, try communicating with people who are different from you, for example regarding cultural background, age, education, and working experiences.


Mr. Gregersen mentions that you don’t have to excel in all 5 skills. He mentions, for example, that Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com is really good at experimenting, and that Steve Jobs is incredibly strong at associating. Reading the article, I also noticed a couple of other very interesting remarks by Hal Gregersen:
- "At the core of this, all these folks were driven by a fundamental bias against the status quo. They were absolutely uncomfortable with things being the way they are. They wanted to make things change."
- "The adult world in which we live does not value these actions". In this regard, Mr. Gregersen encourages us to once in a while act a bit like a child.

By the way, regarding point # 3, I came across this 2 minute video with fine inputs from Clayton Christensen.

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