5 key skills of leading innovators

An eight-year study by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M Christensen, Jeff Dyer, professor at Brigham Young University, and Hal B Gregersen, professor of leadership at INSEAD, has indentified five skills that the world’s most successful innovators have:

Questioning allows innovators to challenge the status quo and consider new possibilities;

Observing helps innovators detect small details – in the activities of customers, suppliers and other companies – that suggest new ways of doing things;

Networking permits innovators to gain radically different perspectives from individuals with diverse backgrounds;

Experimenting prompts innovators to relentlessly try out new experiences, take things apart and test new ideas;

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.

Dozens of senior executives at large organisations interviewed for the study revealed that in most cases they did not feel personally responsible for coming up with innovations. They felt only responsibility to “facilitate the process”, to make sure someone else in the company was doing it. But the authors found that in the world’s most innovative companies, senior executives like Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Marc Benioff (salesforce.com), and AG Lafley (Procter & Gamble) did not just delegate innovation; they kept their own hands deep in the innovation process.

• For more visit www.forbes.com/ or blogs.hbr.org/

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