Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Three “T”Traits in Innovators

Innovators are the rare breed, but innovators are also among us and within us.

Innovators are simply those who can think differently and whose work continues to move forward and, in turn, is profitable to self and others. Innovators can see the old or emergent problems from every direction and discover different solutions. Innovators see possibility in the world when most people only see the way that they have been told. Here are three “T”traits in innovators.

T-shaped knowledge: Many innovators are “T-Shaped” talent, who have both the breadth and depth in their skill sets. The vertical bar of the “T” represents depth in one field, the horizontal bar represents the ability to collaborate across other disciplines and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one’s own. Innovative thinkers are explorers and synthesizers of their views. The breadth of knowledge and broad exposure enable them to connect wider dots to spark creativity. And the depth of knowledge or some deep expertise allows them to become more practical to come up with implementable ideas, not just pure imagination. The “T” metaphor was not made to tell us how much we know about something or how many areas we know about. It was made instead to illustrate a predisposition to diversify our focus or not. In the industrial age, people are either “experts” or “explorers,” but in the digital era, they need to be both: Being the explorer to discover alternative ways to do things, and being the expert to understand the complexity of digital innovation. From the team building perspective, The breadth and depth of the “T” in the context of a team has to respond to a challenge. That means a blend of skills and experience can be fostered in different ways to stimulate innovation. Strong interpersonal and communication/collaboration skills are also critical in order to build an innovative team with qualities such as metacognition, critical thinking, empathy, engagement, resilience, etc.

Transdisciplinary understanding: In upcoming years with “VUCA” new normal, organizations and human society will be confronting a number of high-complex problems in the hyper-connected world, the solutions will require integration of different sets of knowledge and fluency across multiple disciplines. Innovation happens when an out-of-the-box thinker questions or challenges the rules of the game, inventing knowledge transfers and goes outside the industry to invent a radical new way to respond to the 'job to be done.' Transdisciplinarity - the ability to work across disciplines will emerge as a key skill for the innovative leaders and workforces. Digital innovation is the trans-disciplinary approach which involves applied science (Engineering), art (Design), Cognition (Psychology), social norms (Culture) and group behavior (Sociology). The challenge is to move from the individual to system level. If you take knowledge from one context and bring it over into a new context you have knowledge or technology transfer innovation. Transdisciplinary knowledge and understanding are critical to stimulate more innovation of the disruptive type. "Stimulation" makes more sense, taken in consideration with people outside your current customers, and design community, interact with people from another industry, the individuals that shift gears in their day to day work can often produce more ideas and have more unusual connectivities to spark great ideas, and collectively, the diverse team with transdisciplinary understanding and complementary skill set is the fertile ground to make innovation blossom.

Timing: Innovation becomes simply “creating value by solving simple or complex problems.”  
Pace and timing are absolutely critical for innovation and change. Too slow or too fast are as much a problem as backing the wrong disruptive technology or fresh ideas. Many organizations get the timing wrong are surprised when many years later another company gets the timing right for the same disruption the original company underachieved. Timing matters. When innovation outside your organization outraces innovation inside your organization, it is TIME to address factors influencing business velocity, performance, profitability and customer preference. Timing does not mean to rush up as well. Potentially, longer time frames allow the creation of more alternatives from which to choose, using both rational and instinctive knowledge. Either doing innovation or making changes, it is a series of decisions need to be made timely and push the idea forward. Time is a critical factor in decision-making scenario. Look to and listen to your information, use it to help you drive innovation. The reality is that organizations that do not respond to external environmental changes will quickly outcompete as more innovative enterprises take their customers.

For many, innovation is serendipity, and innovators are the crazy one. Innovators are the rare breed, but innovators are also among us and within us. Hence, empower people to be creative, and foster a creative environment in which people are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. And it’s great for both, the individual and the company and the creative strength is built at the corporate level, to become the differentiated business competency.


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