How Innovation Works

Who can combine creativity and execution? That is the underlining question that haunts hiring managers today. They want engaged employees. And from that engagement of heart and mind, they want their creativity. They want their creativity because they want to create a highly adaptive and innovative organization. 

But they also want execution. Blocking and tackling. On time, quality performance. 

We want it all.

Clayton Christensen, a Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, is regarded as one of the world’s top experts on innovation and growth and his ideas have been widely used in industries and organizations throughout the world. A 2011 cover story in Forbes magazine noted that ‘’Everyday business leaders call him or make the pilgrimage to his office in Boston, Mass. to get advice or thank him for his ideas.’’ In 2011 in a poll of thousands of executives, consultants and business school professors, Christensen was named as the most influential business thinker in the world. 

Clay is the best-selling author of nine books and more than a hundred articles. His first book, The Innovator’s Dilemma received the Global Business Book Award as the best business book of the year (1997); and in 2011 The Economist named it as one of the six most important books about business ever written

"I don't want to overstate the case", Christiansen was quoted as saying, "I think about 40 percent of people just are not going to be good at innovating regardless of what they do. And 5 percent are born with the instinct. There are things that they do and ways that they think that are intuitive. The rest of us could learn what these innovators do if somebody would just crawl inside their brains and codify what to them is intuitive.

In a sense, that was our hope with The Innovator's DNA, that we could articulate how innovative people think. So over a period of years, we interviewed hundreds of innovators and almost 5,000 executives to identify ways of thinking that distinguish innovative people from typical executives. What we found is that innovators "think different," to borrow a slogan from Apple. And thinking differently leads them to act differently. From our research, consistent patterns emerged that led us to identify five primary discovery skills that underlie innovation: associating, observing, questioning, networking, and experimenting.

First and foremost, innovators are good at associational thinking, or simply associating. They make connections between seemingly unrelated problems and ideas and synthesize new ideas. I would frame associational thinking by asking this question: Has somebody else in the world solved a problem like this before? It turns out that most problems have been solved before by somebody in a different environment. Associating that other experience to what's going on in my world may make me look brilliant, but in reality my brilliance was in seeing that this had been solved elsewhere.

Observing and questioning go hand in glove. Innovators observe things, then question why. If you want to be an innovative person, when you see things, you have to pay attention and then wonder why."

In The Great Conversation in Security, we are always seeking the "Why" and in many cases the "Why not?". We bring a diverse group of stakeholders in our industry together to share their different perspectives and experiences. We intentionally jump start the conversation through a problem that illuminates an insight that leads to self, team and organizational discovery. 

And we take chances. In a world of data-driven analysis, sometimes we need to stop waiting for someone else to create a proof-point. As Christensen says: "I don't want to wait until somebody provides data. I need to get out there and create data."

The answers to our most pressing problems lies within and between us. Let's start a great conversation.