With its cover entitled, “Your Next Big Idea: Spotlight on Innovation,” the entire edition of December’s Harvard Business Review magazine is dedicated to business innovation. A number of the articles go right to the heart of New Lantern’s founding principle: employees, if properly motivated and stimulated, are a company’s single most important innovation source.
As HBR’s editor-in-chief Adi Ignatius puts it, “Genius CEOs can’t do all the work of innovation – and in truth, people and culture both matter a lot.”
In one of the lead articles, “The Innovator’s DNA,” authors Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen, highlight the five “discovery skills” that “separate true innovators from the rest of us.” These skills include: Associating, Questioning, Observing, Experimenting, and Networking.
The authors interviewed 25 innovative entrepreneurs, and surveyed over 3,000 executives and 500 individuals, who had started innovative companies or invented new products. They charted these individuals against the five discovery skills and found a high correlation among leading innovators.
For example, under the “Associating” skill, entrepreneur Frans Johansson cited the importance of the “Medici effect” when it comes to innovation. He was referring to the Medici family of Florence during the 15th through 17th centuries, who helped usher in a “creative explosion” by bringing together successful people from wide ranging disciplines such as: sculptors, scientists, poets, philosophers, painters, and architects.
According to the article, “as these individuals connected, new ideas blossomed at the intersections of their respective fields, thereby spawning the Renaissance, one of the most inventive eras in history.”
Likewise, many leading innovators seek to spend time around a network of thought leaders and individuals from a variety of different perspectives in an effort to “extend their own knowledge domains.” For example, they attend conferences such as TED, Davos, and the Aspen Ideas Festival, which brings together artists, entrepreneurs, academics, politicians, adventurers, scientists, and thinkers from all over the globe.
Kent Bowen, who founded the innovative ceramic composite company, CPS, cites this credo which he asks his employees to follow: “The insights required to solve many of our most challenging problems come from outside our industry and scientific field.”
Finally, the authors make the point – as we have made in numerous blog posts on this site – that whereas innovative thinking may seem innate to some, “it can also be developed and strengthened through practice.” They note that corporate executives should “put aside time for you and your team to actively cultivate more creative ideas.”
Let New Lantern design an innovation program for your company that would make the Medici family proud – and in doing so, put you in the best position to make your next big idea a reality.