Characteristics Of Innovators


Have strong cognitive abilities (including excellent analytical skills)

Focus on important issues and waste little time on peripheral issues (this is important owing to the sheer volume of data and ideas)

Have the ability to think strategically even in highly ambiguous situations

Never the rest on their laurels, ie they are never satisfied with the status quo and are always looking for new ways of doing things, new products and services, etc; they are continually trying to improve

Are good communicators with a lot of social intuition, savvy and tenacity so that they can handle a diverse group of experts from different disciplines

Are persuasive and often charming

Know how to extract information from specific areas of an organisations and then to garner organisational supports

Are tolerant of failures, ie it is regarded as a learning experience.

This is sometimes referred to as mistakability, ie involves allowing people the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.

"...We make errors in every context. They give us the opportunity to reflect and improve. But......mistakes can mean failure. So people learn to play conservatively..."
James Arvanitakis as quoted by Persephone Nicholas, 2016

Some examples of people learning from their mistakes
- Walt Disney's early bankruptcy strengthened his resolve to succeed
- Henry Ford called blunders necessary for achievement
- Bill Gates has declared success a much lousier teacher than failure

In summary, there is

"...a certain tension between an innovator's independent mind and his or her social involvement with colleagues, but the ability to seamlessly shift between isolation and a larger group is essential. By definition, an innovator must access resources and recombine ideas in ways that are unfamiliar to the organisation. Doing so means moving beyond conventional boundaries and the safety of existing positions, which can be a learning experience. At the same time, innovators must be able to bring the knowledge that they have gained back to the traditional hierarchies, which can be frustrating......such people have a unique psychological mix because they are able to work equally well in large cross-functional teams and in extreme isolation......true innovators never let pride or former success stand in the way of a better solution, no matter where it originates. And once they receive valuable new information, they are quick to connect it to the whole. Furthermore, because potential innovators have strong emotional intelligence, they always ask for feedback at the end of the assessment process..."

Jeffrey Cohn et al 2009

Innovator can be supported by:

- being allocated a mentor

- being encouraged to foster peer networks which involves innovators being able to tap into a cross-functional group of diverse experts at any time

- placing him or her as innovation hubs in the middle of the organisational chart so that they have easy access to influencers across the organisations

(source: Jeffrey Cohn et al 2009)

We need to create the environment for innovation, ie

"...educate people to be ambitious, creative, risk-takers, passionate about what they do, goal-orientated and open-minded and want to keep learning throughout life..."

John Glynn as quoted by Rachel Lebihan, 2012b

We need look at

- the complexities of initiating, developing, managing and exploiting innovation, etc

- leadership skills for entrepreneurs

- how to create a culture conducive to innovation

- how to embed innovation in the strategic direction of an organisation

- financial skills for entrepreneurs

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