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Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators

Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators

A strategy+business review of The Innovator’s DNA:

Before I share the book review of The Innovator's DNA, a joke heard this morning offers succinct insight on the subject: "A scientist and a philosopher were being chased by a hungry lion. The scientist made some quick calculations, he said “it's no good trying to outrun it, it's catching up”. The philosopher kept a little ahead and replied “I am not trying to outrun the lion, I am trying to outrun you!”

Now for the more academic explanation... the five skills of successful innovators, all of which have to be present together, are 

  • associating (linking ideas that aren’t obviously related)
  • questioning
  • observing
  • networking
  • experimenting

The first is a thinking skill and the others are behavioral skills. The authors stress the behavioral aspects of innovative entrepreneurship, saying that usually, innovators act differently in order to think differently

The ability to innovate usually has its origin in the entrepreneur’s profound dissatisfaction with the status quo, which is likely the result of early life experiences. Innovative ability thus cannot be easily acquired (but certainly can be hired on a project basis). Further, the five skills concern the discovery of value as opposed to its delivery, which is usually taught in business schools and rewarded by many organizations. This, the authors say, is the primary reason so many large companies fail at disruptive innovation: People with discovery skills have been driven away. 

At the team level, the authors cite the benefits of having members with complementary skills and note the important role that trust plays in innovation that drives bottom line performance. As business builder who discovers opportunities for innovation and then delivers new revenue streams, EBITDA and increased enterprise value to (re)ALIGN clients, I tend to agree. 

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