In the Innovator's DNA we discussed whether innovators are born or made. Research has shown that creativity is not a genetic predisposition but a result of a pattern of behaviors -- so it can be concluded that all innovators must share a certain set of characteristics that have lead them to success. While innovators speak different languages, come from different cultures and various industry backgrounds, they all have fundamental traits in common.
Robert's Rules of Innovation suggests three key traits that all innovators possess right off the bat.
1. Innovators are not afraid to fail. Fear of failure is the first innovation killer. In order to achieve a culture of successful, sustainable innovation, leaders are always searching for ways to break down the barriers that derail innovation, encourage creativity and introduce new procedures that lead to breakthrough products. Make failures learning experiences...
2. Innovators know people are resistant to change. And more importantly, innovators have the will to win those people over. Having the foresight to expect firmly entrenched corporate cultures, silo-driven behavior and the "devil's advocates," innovation leaders are prepared to take on the challenges that come with introducing change.
3. Innovators are, in a very real sense, a fraternity of liked-minded individuals. All innovators are passionate about the importance of innovation for the long term: sustainable innovation. Professionals with this mindset are truly found all over the world.
Whether you are an innovation leader for an international corporation or an entrepreneurial startup; whether you are a manufacturer, distributor, service provider, supplier or retailer, you face pressures to deliver profitable growth. In a roundtable discussion, an international network of innovators shared their experiences and best practices to start, nurture and profit from a culture of sustained innovation. When asked what the biggest stumbling blocks are, here are some of their insights.
"It's got to be a holistic approach. All the pieces have to work together, in a culture where quality ideas are valued, respected, and executed -- and the organization must be aligned to foster these great ideas. Balanced across functions. With certain basic values to get this passion harnessed." -- Bruce Sauter, formerly of Atari and Kohler Company
"You need that elemental, entrepreneurial spirit, in the classic sense, you know: 'Let's try it!' There needs to be tolerance for failure, the will to try something new even if it fails (but the discipline to make that particular mistake only once). You need to show, credibly, that you embrace change. Otherwise, it's never going to happen." -- Hannes Hunschofsky, president, Hoerbiger Corporation of America
"Looking back at the big picture... success requires a culture change from the top down. It's complex, it takes time, and it's worth it all -- if you're serious about survival." -- Nic Hunt, director of innovation for an international manufacturing corporation
Innovation certainly starts from the people at the top, who need to walk the talk and take responsibility into their own hands to become a champion for change. And the change agents of the world have to possess that eternal optimism -- or sheer willpower -- to make it happen. After all, innovation takes guts and is not for the faint of heart. For more insights from the roundtable discussion, see "Robert's Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival."
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