Sunday, March 13, 2016

Five Traits of Innovators

Innovators are at their very heart visionaries who also have determination, dedication, passion and motivation.

Creativity is #1 wanted quality for digital leaders and professionals nowadays, but where can you discover innovators? Do innovators belong to rare breed or they are among us and within us? Why can innovators find more view spots than others? Why can innovators think differently via connecting unusual dots? What are important traits of innovators?

Cognitive ability & style: Cognition is a faculty for processing of information, applying knowledge, and changing preferences. Cognition can happen in many different ways and their combinations: Enhancing our “description of the world and ourselves within it” - is cognition and differs from ordinary (usually habitual) thoughts. The cognition involves exploring varieties of meanings/thoughts, abandoning old connection, and establishing new relations. In neuronal terms, this involves disabling some of the “wiring” and working on the new ones. All of that requires a deliberate mental effort. Cognition, or cognitive processes, can be natural or artificial, conscious or unconscious. These processes are analyzed from different perspectives within different contexts. All of us have a creative/artistic side while also having a curious/scientific side. As all humans are bestowed with three basic instincts which are humility (Egoless awareness and acceptance), curiosity (restlessness with the status quo), and creativity (Urge to change/improve the status quo). Amazingly, these three basic instincts are intertwined. Humility energizes curiosity and curiosity ignite creativity. In simple words, without humility, curiosity is feeble and without curiosity, creativity is ineffectual.

Intellectual engagement: Creativity relates to intelligence, empathy, idealism, process understanding, communication skills, cultural understanding, leadership, and definitely - understanding what is wrong with the status quo. Spot and score individual as an innovator needs to focus on individual capabilities and potential to innovate. The indicators to assess the intrinsic capacity of individuals like interdisciplinary skills and knowledge, plasticity (fast learning), and synthesizing capability. When we explore the mental process of acquiring new knowledge through thought, experience, and senses - The actual “thinking” is a conscious or non-conscious effort to reorganize your memories (meanings) and integrate newly acquired knowledge (new meanings). The conscious effort employs and tries to expand one’s attention span to stay focused on the wide range of meanings (memories) in order to reconcile them into a coherent whole. Innovative leaders assimilate all relevant and available information, transform them into business insight, consciously cultivate a culture of innovation, and make effective decisions for the organization they lead.

Creative problem-solving: Creative minds with cognitive differences can reframe questions before answering them, to focus on WHY, before getting to the HOW. The good question is usually open and thought-provoking: The good question brings multifaceted perspective. Creative people are typically disrespectful of outdated rules, and their creativity is really their way of breaking out of or reframing how we see the world. In short, innovators obviously think differently- problem solving is part of their DNA whether it is in the invention, marketing, repurposing something already being there. Creative leaders also have the ability to reframe the circumstances or conditions around a problem, to solve a problem creatively. As far as leading change is concerned, there is a lot of crossover between change leadership and creativity (tolerance for ambiguity/idea generation/confidence etc.). The leadership team with a cognitive difference will have better capability and complementary skills to solve problems creatively and lead business transformation effortlessly.

Ability to make unusual connections: Creativity is all about connecting the dots. It’s an inner process to create novel ideas. Creativity may start with the biological basis of creativity (nature); then the development or suppression of those characteristics during maturation (nurture); then the biological and social support of those traits (nutrition). Innovators find more viewing spots than the rest. They find angles to wiggle through where most are unable to even envision a place where there is an angle. Creative leaders will build up working environment to nurture creativity, enable dot-connecting activities such as cross-functional collaboration, and encourage the freedom of thinking and action.

The tendency to constantly question the status quo: Innovation is about thinking differently, acting differently, delivering differently, adding value differently from the status quo. Innovation requires thinking beyond, as opposed to outside the box, altering or changing the frame of reference to create previously unconsidered solutions. Innovators need to rise above the status quo and take on a new set of activities that have them involved in the strategy development process from the get-go. Hence, innovators are also better business strategists.

Innovators are at their very heart visionaries who also have determination, dedication, passion and curiosity, inspiration and motivation. Innovation comes with a foresight to envision a need that others overlook or ignore and a willingness to forge ahead to satisfy visions, in spite of a risk of failure. They are authentic and confident. If you're not sure of yourself, you won't be able to convince others to follow your leadership and vision. They have persisted because they were convinced to be in the right direction.


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