Like so many philosophical questions, one that has come to mind frequently is whether or not the ability to be innovative and creative is innate, or if it is a characteristic that can be trained. Instinct as well as a little bit of experience leads me to believe that it is possible to learn and be trained to achieve new levels of creativity. As a child, didn’t you do a craft or sport where practice helped you excel over time? Then why would it be different in other activities, such as writing; creating or innovating in whatever area you specialize?
Many experts in innovation and creativity have arrived at the same conclusion that we can all practice to become innovators instead of keeping our fingers crossed to have been born that way. In the following we present five behaviors that distinguish innovators according to Clayton Christensen, as well as Ken Robinson and Roger Martin’s point of view about the topic.
In the book The Innovator’s DNA, based on investigations about renowned executives such as Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, the pioneer in disruptive innovation Clayton Christensen explains that the capacity to generate innovative ideas is not only a function of the mind. It is also a function of behavior. He presents the five abilities that differentiate innovators. The most important? That they are capacities that can be dominated, according to the authors, by whoever is interested in doing them.
1) Associate. Establish connections between themes, problems, ideas, disciplines or technologies apparently not connected, and you will discover new orientations and perspectives. At the same time, associative thinking is the one that triggers the other four abilities.
2) Question. You must constantly and passionately debate the established with provocative questions that push the limits and rule out the presupposed. Some tactics to achieve disruptive questions are to ask yourself: What? What caused it? Why or why not? What would happen if…?
3) Observe. Carefully examine the world around you, including clients, products, services, technologies and organization. Doing so will help you come up with new ways of doing things.
4) Work in networks.Thinking beyond the conventional requires linking ideas that are within our area of specialty with those that are outside our direct environment. When people dedicate time and energy to finding ideas and testing them through a network of diverse individuals they acquire a radically new perspective.
5) Experiment. It is essential to constantly try new ideas. And how to achieve innovation? Escaping the routine and exploring the world; crossing intellectual barriers by reading and studying areas outside your immediate speciality; developing new abilities or knowledge; disarming a product and analyzing each piece of the object to discover revealing conclusions; building a prototype for your own invention; following the latest trends.
Ken Robinson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, also supports the idea that creativity and innovation can be trained, even in phases outside the work environment. He explains the need for profound change within education systems in order to nurture the imagination, creativity and innovation, as we revealed in a previous WOBI blog.
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original". Ken Robinson
Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, is convinced that it is possible to permanently nurture originality. “Practice is necessary to be original,” he assures. For Martin, always doing the same things the same way doesn’t give you the opportunity to be original, and by trying new and different things you will innovate as a consequence. In order to do so, you must first overcome the fear of the unknown and later ask yourself: have I done something this week to nurture my originality? Watch him explaining this theme in the following exclusive video.
What are you doing to train your capacity to innovate?