Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Three “U” Traits in Innovators

Innovators are simply those who are comfortable to be different, who can think differently and whose work continues to push the human world forward.

Innovation is about figuring out the better ways to do things. Innovation is an exceptional, exclusive, and realistic idea that separates you from others without a second thought. Being innovative is a state of mind to think and do things from new perspectives. Innovators are the rare breed, but they are around us and within us. Here are three “U” traits in innovators.

Uniqueness: Being unique means to be authentic. Being authentic is defined as being real or genuine. It is much clearer to discover an individual’s potential and capabilities to innovate via an authentic lens. The indicators to assess the intrinsic capacity of individuals “innovativeness” (the state of mind) include: Self-awareness (recognition of your own strength and weaknesses), independent thinking, interdisciplinary skills and knowledge, cognitive ability and style, inquisitiveness, intellectual engagement, creative problem-solving, personality (openness to experience, tolerance of ambiguity, self-motivation), tendency to constantly question the status quo, plasticity (fast learning), ability to identify patterns, ability to make unusual connections, capacity to adapt, emotional intelligence (risk-taking), willingness to accept feedback,  etc. Every person is unique, though not every person has the same degree of creativity. Creativity is an innate ability, but it can also be developed. Thus, organizations need to cultivate the culture of authenticity - to encourage people to be authentic and inspire inclusiveness, inspire creativity and encourage a new way to do things.

Unconventional wisdom: Unconventional wisdom often means fresh insight or “out-of-the-box” thinking. The conventional mind is bound by certain group beliefs and general practices, it perhaps works in considerably static industrial age or certain geographical regions.  However, with rapid changes, frequent technological disruptions, and the blurred territories, more often than not, conventional wisdom shows its limitation or even outdated, become the very obstacle to stifle innovation or decelerate collective progress. In fact, the profile of innovator that is most common is the talented people with an innate curiosity to improve, breakthrough unconventional wisdom to innovate, take the risk of experimenting new ways to do things, and discover the unique path others never takes before to reach the destination. Because being innovative requires thinking outside the conventional box, practice creative thinking, adding value differently from the status quo, changing the frame of reference to create previously undiscovered solutions.

Contextual understanding: Creativity often means you need to apply the previous knowledge to the different context. Learning something to gain knowledge often starts with the content study. But creativity is more based on insight than knowledge. Contextual understanding can often trigger creativity. Insight is captured via contextual understanding, insight does not just fuel creativity, but also make creativity more tangible and embed creativity with other thought processes to create value and produce the new knowledge. In reality, too often, assumptions and prejudices get in the way of true understanding. The most important capability of the innovative mind is the willingness and ability to seek out new knowledge, gain contextual understanding to fuel creativity via exploring the new lenses to understand things with the new way to solve problems.

Innovativeness is clearly a competency at both individual and corporate level. Innovators are simply those who are comfortable to be different, who can think differently and whose work continues to move forward and, in turn, is profitable to self and others, and give the push to the collective human progress.


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