Five traits of successful innovators

Original author: Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
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What makes an idea innovative? And what makes an innovative idea worthwhile? There is still no agreement on these issues.

For example, in disputes about which invention is more important - the Internet or the wheel, personal preferences will be more likely than logical reasoning. Experts do not agree on what type and level of innovation is most beneficial to organizations.

Some studies have argued that radical innovation (which sounds very attractive) provides consistent competitive advantages, while othersdemonstrate that “moderate” innovations — that is, rather the iPhone 5 than the original iPhone — are generally more effective, and not least because they reduce market uncertainty. There are also unconvincing conclusions about the need to reckon with the opinions of consumers, while some studies show that consumer attention is detrimental to innovation, since it is tantamount to playing catch-up, but there are those who disagree with this point of view. Even the famous saying of Henry Ford on this subject is disputed : "If I asked people what they want, they would ask for a faster horse."

Translated to Alconost .

And, as you know, we are very poorly given an assessment of our own ideas. Most people fall into the trap of the illusion of their own superiority, which is why they overestimate their creative talent, as it happens in any other field (for example, 90% of drivers consider that their skill level is above average, which is mathematically impossible). This allows us to make sure that we cannot rely on how a person evaluates himself to determine the level of creativity of his ideas.

But still there are relatively well-defined criteria to predict who will be able to generate creative ideas . After all, researchreveal a disproportionately high probability of the appearance of fresh and useful ideas in some people for whom - regardless of their area of ​​competence, position and work experience - the same psychological characteristics and behaviors are characteristic. As a detailed review of more than 100 scientific papers summarizes , creative people are usually better at identifying problems than solving them, they are passionate, sensitive and, most importantly, they experience mental hunger: they are open to new experiences, have an inquiring mind and innovative thinking. These personality traits define creativity much better than IQs, school performance, or motivation.

However, creativity alone is not enough for innovation: innovationoften require the development, implementation and implementation of ideas. That is why there are much more “latent” innovators than actual ones, and why we all have ever come up with great ideas, the realization of which never came to fruition. Here are a couple of mine: a “friend for rent” is a service that allows tourists to hire locals who can give them useful tips or just keep a company, as well as a date search application by location that searches for a nearby couple matching your personal profile. These ideas, like most of my ideas, have been successfully implemented by other people whose heads they also visited.

The key difference between creativity and innovation is performance : the ability to turn an idea into a successful service, product or enterprise. If, as William James remarked, “Truth is what happens to an idea,” entrepreneurship is the process of transforming creative ideas into useful innovations. Given that entrepreneurship includes the human factor - it depends on the decisions and behavior of specific people, the logical approach to understanding the essence of innovation is to study the basic characteristics of entrepreneurial people, that is, people who are the driving force behind innovation, regardless of whether they founded own business or self-employed. Such a study reveals several key characteristics (in addition to creativity):

  1. Flexible thinking that helps them identify unoccupied market niches. Opportunities are the foundation of entrepreneurship and innovation, and some people notice them much better than others. In addition, these people are genetically programmed for innovation : they crave new and complex experiences, seek diversity in all aspects of life. This is consistent with higher rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder among business founders.
  2. Formal education or training that is necessary to notice new opportunities, to recognize them in the current context. Contrary to popular belief, the most successful innovators are not geniuses of the highest standard, but well-trained professionals in their field. Without special knowledge, it is difficult to distinguish significant information from unimportant information, noise from a signal. This is evidenced by the results of studies confirming that entrepreneurial training pays off.
  3. Proactivity and great perseverance , which allows them to develop the discovered opportunities. First of all , effective innovators differ from colleagues in their greater determination, sustainability and energy.
  4. Healthy care . This would surprise many, but successful innovators are usually more organized, prudent and risk averse compared to most people (increased risk is inevitable when starting a business, but is not connected with its success).
  5. The social capital they rely on throughout the business process. Serial innovators strive to leverage accessible connections and networks to mobilize resources and create strong alliances, both internal and external. A popular view of entrepreneurship praises innovators as independent, individualistic geniuses, but innovation is always a team product. In addition, enterprising people usually have a higher coefficient of emotional intelligence ( EQ ), which allows them to sell their ideas and strategies, as well as to convey the main mission to other team members.

Even if people have all five of these characteristics, you should not expect real innovation from them in the absence of a meaningful mission or long-term vision. In fact, a vision is the point where entrepreneurship and leadership meet: no matter how creative, flexible or proactive, a critical trait of a successful innovator is the ability to push other people forward to innovation. Without it, you won’t attract the right talents, build and inspire a team, and do not maintain the status of an innovator, even after achieving success. As recently notedFrancis Bowen and colleagues, there is a "vicious circle in which innovation leads to better performance in the future, but this investment can also cause increased stiffness, which will reduce innovative potential." In other words: innovation leads to growth, but growth hinders innovation ... except when innovation becomes an integral part of the organizational culture, which requires an effective vision.

In short, it makes no sense to simply rely on a breakthrough idea; The real value is the ability to generate many ideas, find the right opportunities to develop them, act with enthusiasm and dedication to achieve a meaningful goal.

Ideas do not make people successful - it's exactly the opposite.


About the translator

Translation of the article was done in Alconost.

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