5 Skills of Disruptive Innovators


Many executives find themselves taking an introspective look, asking “What can I do to bring my company to the cutting edge?” Sarah Green of HBR, sits down with Jeff Dyer, co-author of the book The Innovator’s DNA, and discusses approaches one could take to become a disruptive innovator. The five skills he sets forth are questioning, observing, networking, experimenting, and associative thinking:
Questioning – Developing a question about a problem, company, or industry, and then working off that question to come up with new ways of solving it.
Example: Peter Thiel and Max Levchin, founders of Pay-Pal, asked the question “How can we be money to other people?” This led to the idea of attaching money accounts to email, ultimately resulting in Pay-Pal.
Observing – Going out and looking at different things: cultures, stores, people. Then find a way to adapt what you see to your business.
Example: Howard Schultz travelled to Italy, and fell in love with the atmosphere of romance and pleasure of coffee shops, and brought it back to America to create Starbucks.
Networking – keeping in touch, finding newer, quicker, easier ways to communicate with associates and/or potential clients.
Example: Mike Lazaridis, founder of Research in Motion, maker of the Blackberry, was intrigued at the fact that coke machines could communicate to head-quarters, telling them that they needed to be restocked. He took this idea and twisted it so that people could send information wirelessly through their cellphones.
Experimenting – Deconstructing and then rebuilding a product, a process, or an idea, whether it is yours or a competitor’s, and then testing it in the marketplace.
Example: Michael Dell took what he learned from taking apart computers and applied his knowledge to his future business, creating the Dell Direct Model.
Associative Thinking – putting new ideas or products together to form one cohesive conglomerate.
Example: Steve Jobs, after taking a calligraphy class, took that and applied it to computers, creating the great typography of the Macintosh computers
Jeff Dyer emphasizes the fact that if you are not at least trying to be innovative, your company will fall far behind. Don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. Mr. Dyer uses the famous Thomas Edison quote, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” to help encourage the development of new disruptive innovators.

Watch the full interview below:


This article was written by Galton van Sluytman from the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 8,000 executive search professionals in over 70 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 50,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at www.BlueSteps.com

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