How to Be More Creative
According to research by Clayton Christenson, Jeff Dyer and Hal Gergersen — the co-authors of The Innovator’s DNA — recent research has found that most creative skills are not a special gift conferred on us at birth by the Magical Gene Fairy. They can be learned. In fact, between 60 and 75 percent of our innovation skills are developed and fostered.
The authors canvassed approximately 5,000 executives to understand the different skills that separate innovators from the average executive and identified five major skill sets (four behavioral and one cognitive) that can actually be taught and nourished. They are …
· Observing. Innovators spend a lot of time studying the market and technology ecosystem with a focus on customers, products and competitors. Observations gleaned in one place often serve as new ideas in other places (like Apple’s use of breakthrough technology that was created by PARC, a division of Xerox).
· Associating. Innovative people are often able to combine different ideas and tools into something entirely new — a cognitive process known as “associating.” Post-it notes were invented when Art Fry (of 3M) applied a weak adhesive developed by his colleague, Spencer Silver, to a small piece of paper to make a marker that stayed in place, yet lifted off without damaging the pages underneath it.
· Questioning. Innovators are passionate, curious people who spend more time than the average person asking questions. Like Albert Einstein, they tend to solve difficult problems by challenging conventional wisdom or key assumptions.
· Experimenting. Innovative people — like Thomas Edison — thrive on new experiences, experimentation and change.
· Networking. Innovators understand the power of networks, so they tend to spend a lot of effort collaborating for inspiration, new ideas and resources. (That’s one of the reasons why I feel it’s so important for us to go to social and digital conferences, which expose us to new ways of thinking.)
Integrating these five skills — observing, associating, questioning, experimenting and networking — into our firm, can help anyone to generate more, better and bigger ideas.