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11/2/09 1:38:46 PM
Five “discovery skills” separate true innovators from the rest of us.
| by Jeffrey H. Dyer, Hal B. Gregersen, and Clayton M. Christensen
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Harvard Business Review 61
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The Innovator’s DNA
“How do I ﬁnd INNOVATIVE PEOPLE for my organization? And how can
I become more innovative myself?”
These are questions that stump senior executives, who understand that the ability to innovate is the
“secret sauce” of business success. Unfortunately, most of us know very little about what makes one person more …show more content…
Let’s look at the skills in detail.
Associating is like a mental muscle that can grow stronger by using the other discovery skills. As innovators engage in those behaviors, they build their ability to generate ideas that can be recombined in new ways. The more frequently people in our study attempted to understand, categorize, and store new knowledge, the more easily their brains could naturally and consistently make, store, and recombine associations. Discovery Skill 1: Associating
More than 50 years ago, Peter Drucker described the power of provocative questions. “The important and difficult job is never to ﬁnd the right answers, it is to ﬁnd the right question,” he wrote. Innovators constantly ask questions that challenge common wisdom or, as Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata puts it, “question the unquestionable.” Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, has worked directly with a number of innovative entrepreneurs, including the founders of eBay, PayPal, and Skype. “They get a kick out of screwing up the status quo,” she told us. “They can’t bear it. So they spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about how to change the world. And as they brainstorm, they like to ask: ‘If we did this, what would happen?’”
Most of the innovative entrepreneurs we interviewed could remember the speciﬁc questions they were asking at the time they had the inspiration for a new venture. Michael Dell, for instance, told us that his idea for founding Dell Computer sprang from his