5 Skills Every Disruptive Innovator Needs

Filed Under Innovation

Sound-triggered High-speed flash picture - 4/5/09
Arwen Petty

by
February 26, 2014

It’s not entirely surprising that research on what makes innovators innovative shows that they think differently than the average person. They have unorthodox ways of processing information and approaching problems, making them ideal candidates for driving disruptive innovation in any environment.

The fact that this type of unique thinking doesn’t come naturally to everyone can be frustrating for organizations focused on continuous innovation. But practice makes perfect — here are 5 skills you need to become the disruptive innovator you’ve always wanted to be.

1. To Bridge the Gap(s)

Innovators have an innate ability to connect concepts that aren’t typically related, which allows them to develop original ideas, and affects their behavior when executing those ideas. After absorbing various team perspectives, potential project risks, market needs, and other innovation elements, innovators naturally associate previously unconnected components, which spawns unique solutions. Promote this kind of out-of-the-box thinking with visual approaches like mind mapping, which allows a team to see every piece of a project at once.

2. To Fearlessly Question

Innovators ask tons of questions, and they ask them of anyone and everyone who can help them better understand needs, goals, challenges, and resources. More importantly, they try to justify the purpose behind actions — they’ll get to how things are done later. First, they want to know why something’s happening at all. It can certainly cause discomfort for anyone who shies away from transparency, but keeping people honest about their intentions and progress ensures open communication, which is critical to innovation success.

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3. To Diligently Pay Attention

Innovators are masters at paying attention to detail; it’s what gives them the fodder for asking the aforementioned poignant questions. They typically remember who said what, what they said it in response to, and the challenges associated with every discussion point for the project. Because of their killer ability to connect unrelated concepts, this scrutiny also lets them accurately predict possibilities and issues that may arise down the road. Not blessed with a photographic memory? Become one with note-taking, voice memos, calendar reminders, and confirmation emails.

4. To Not Hate Networking

Lots of people cringe when they hear the word “networking” — though it’s necessary to be ahead of the game in today’s business culture, it also conjures up images of awkward conversations, cheap wine, and wince-worthy self-promotion. But disruptive innovators get over the discomfort quickly, because they understand that talking to other people is one of the simplest and best ways to gain new perspectives, open up new avenues of thought, and get inspired about applying different tactics and strategies to existing problems. Networking helps us learn from other people’s failures and successes, shape ideas through conversation, and gain new insight.

5. To Try, Try Again

Innovators consider everything they do to be an experiment, and believe that any lesson learned to be essential to their own progress. Failure and success are equally important, and neither scares them off. But they also take everything they’ve learned and apply it to future endeavors, a philosophy that speaks to the old agile business adage: “Fail fast, fail often, but never fail the same way twice.”

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