The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and and Clayton M. Christensen is that kind of resource. If you recognize Christensen’s name, it is because he is recognized as the world’s foremost authority on disruptive innovation.
When Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma was first published in 1997, it was clear that he was following in the footsteps of Joseph Shumpeter, architect of the concept of creative destruction. The Innovator’s DNA moves well beyond theory with a set of five skills that can be mastered. A key assumption of the book is that while certain innovators clearly have the reputation (Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Jeff Bezos, etc.), their behaviors can be learned and emulated. A comprehensive study confirming this was done by a group of researchers (Reznikoff, Domino, Bridges, and Honemon) who studies creative abilities in 117 pairs of identical and fraternal twins. The researchers discovered that only 30% of creative performance could be attributed to genetics.
In fact, the authors “describe in detail five skills that anyone can master to improve his or her own ability to be an innovative thinker (p. 11).” The five skills are:
- Associating: “Innovators discover new directions by making connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas.”
- Questioning: “Innovators are consummate questioners who show a passion for inquiry.”
- Observing: Innovators “carefully watch the world around them.”
- Networking: “Innovators spend a lot of time and energy finding and testing ideas through a diverse network of individuals who vary widely in their backgrounds and perspectives.”
- Experimenting: “Innovators are constantly trying out new experiences and piloting new ideas.”
The promise of The Innovator’s DNA is that you and I can learn the skills to become more innovative. Does it live up to the promise? I think it does! Each of the chapters that dissect and examine the five skills includes a set of tips for developing them. The best part? I really think anyone could apply some or all of the tips and begin to develop these skills.
Part Two takes a look at the DNA of the world’s most innovative companies. As fascinating an examination as it is, the best part is that this section looks at how to put the innovator’s DNA into practice with people, processes, and philosophies. I have to say, my copy is really marked up, underlined and starred in this section. There is a lot here that will benefit all of us!
If you want to become a more innovative organization, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of The Innovator’s DNA. I know I loved it…and I’m betting you will too!