Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Top Innovators Practice 5 Skills the Rest of Us Don't

The most innovative CEOs spend 50 percent more time practicing five specific innovation skills than do their less creative counterparts, according to a six-year study by three prominent business scholars.

These five practical steps surfaced during interviews with the likes of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, eBay’s Pierre Omidyar and Michael Dell and are reported in the Harvard Business Review.

“Most executives view creativity and innovation as a ‘black box,’ or something other people are good at, but they don’t know how to do it themselves,” said Jeffrey H. Dyer, lead author on the study and a professor at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management. “We’re opening up the box to see what behaviors they can engage in that will trigger those new ideas.”

Dyer and his co-authors, Hal B. Gregersen of INSEAD and Clayton M. Christensen of Harvard Business School, began asking famous and non-famous, innovators how they came up with their best insights.

“In almost every case they could describe engaging in a behavior before having the idea,” said Dyer, a former Bain consultant who also holds a joint appointment at the Wharton School of Business. “Something they had watched, someone they had talked to, some sort of experiment they had conducted, or some question they had asked, was the trigger for the idea.”

The researchers folded those patterns into their survey of more than 3,000 execs and 500 individuals who had started innovative companies or invented new products. Then they analyzed the results with statistical tools to find which activities correlated with innovative ideas. They paid special attention to behaviors that innovative executives practiced that others did not.

Here are the five “discovery skills” that emerged, along with specific actions you can take to implement them:


“It became clear early on that these folks asked a lot more questions than your typical executive,” Dyer said. “Especially questions that challenge the status quo.”

•Write 10 questions each day that challenge assumptions in your company or industry.

Asking “why?” “why not?” and “what if?” spur creative thinking. Embrace constraints. For example, ask, “If we were legally barred from doing things the way we do them now, what would we do?”


“But if you just sit in your room and question all day, you are not going to start an innovative business,” says Dyer, who chairs the Marriott School’s Department of Organizational Leadership and Strategy. “There’s an action-oriented attitude that is captured in observing and these other skills.”

•Watch people, especially potential customers. Watch how customers experience a product or service in their natural environment. Focus on what’s different than you expected.


•Seek training outside your expertise. Take apart a product or process just to see how it works.

Living in a different country and culture is an excellent opportunity to experiment, says coauthor Gregersen.

"You can't succeed in living overseas without using these discovery skills," he says."The constant practice of those skills--required by the novel cultural environment--not only helps people in their present challenges, but also prepares them for equally interesting (but qualitatively different) challenges later.


“Rather than network to gain access to resources or to market yourself, connect with others simply to find and test new ideas. This will widen your perspective,” Dyer says.

•Contact the five most creative people you know and ask them to share what they do to stimulate creative thinking. Go to conferences that include people from outside your industry.


•Connecting seemingly unrelated questions and ideas is the skill that brings all the others together, Dyer explains.

But associating is triggered by new knowledge that is acquired through questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking.

The researchers noted that the senior executives of the most innovative companies in their study don’t delegate creative work. So how do they make time for these innovation skills?

They enlist others’ help in planning and analysis, the skills that are important for executing rather than innovation, Dyer said.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, innovation isn’t a genetic endowment magically given to some and not others; it’s a set of skills that can be developed with practice,” Dyer says. “If you want to be one of the really successful people that make a mark in business, you want to be the person that comes up with the idea, not just the person who carries out others’ ideas.”

Michael Smart | Newswise Science News
Further information:

Further reports about: Business Vision Innovators specific innovation skills

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>