The Innovator’s Mindset
Have you ever wondered how some people (or organizations) manage to have one amazing success after another? Well I have. I’ve always been fascinated with successful serial entrepreneurs, leaders, and companies that manage to always be at the top of the innovation ladder. People like Thomas Edison, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Wayne Huizenga and Jeff Bezos. Companies like Apple, 3M, GE, W.L. Gore, Proctor & Gamble, Intel and Virgin.
So, what is it about these types of people and these types of organizations that sets them apart? They all have an Innovator’s Mindset.
What is The Innovator’s Mindset?
A Mindset is, at its core, a belief construct. That is, it is a belief in one’s self, one’s own abilities and one’s own capabilities. More importantly, as Stanford University professor Carol Dweck describes in her book Mindset (Ballantine Books, 2007), these successful people and organizations all have what is known as a “Growth Mindset.” They are all guided by a belief that their “abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.”
The Innovator’s Mindset starts with a growth mindset, but it is also consumer centric, and oriented towards creating value. Innovators want (or perhaps even need) to grow, they want to provide value by creating solutions for things consumers need; as well as creating new value by providing useful things consumers didn’t even know they wanted.
The value of having an Innovator’s Mindset:
People and organizations with an Innovator’s Mindset tend to be more successful – or more lucky. It’s not simply that they tend to be more lucky, but having this positive, innovator’s mindset actually CREATES success, and luck. In The Luck Factor (Miramax, 2003) professor Richard Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, details his research providing the following insight – Luck (or success) comes to those who embrace and embody four essential principles:
‣ Creating luck by noticing and acting on opportunities,
‣ Expecting that one can create luck through perseverance,
‣ Making decisions which are informed by the well honed intuition, and
‣ Resisting the negative by finding and even creating the bright side of every situation
Behaviors and skills indicative of The Innovator’s Mindset:
Andy Stefanovich in Look at More (Jossey-Bass, 2011) introduces his five M’s framework (Mood, Mindset, Mechanisms, Measurement, Momentum) which is a distillation of his “Thinking, Behavior, and Leadership approach for finding new ideas that lead to innovation.” The creative and innovative Mindset is enhanced through four behaviors:
‣ Changing one’s perspective
‣ Taking risks
‣ Finding one’s passion
‣ Challenging assumptions and embracing ambiguity
‣ Associating – Making “connections”
‣ Questioning – Desire to fill gaps in understanding
‣ Observing – Seeing things that others don’t see in the things that everyone sees
‣ Networking – Purposeful interactions with others having varied backgrounds and perspectives
‣ Experimenting – The act of seeking answers to “what if”
These skills are highly aligned with, and additionally enable the principles and behaviors provided by Wiseman and Stefanovich above. In all, they are the elements of The Innovator’s Mindset.
I think of The Innovator’s Mindset as being comprised of following six reinforcing domains:
There are many many facets to these domains and I provide some of my initial thinking about these rich dimensions below.
Innovators are Alert –
✓ They are acutely aware of their environment – and purposefully so
✓ They are highly observant, and take note of things that inspire, delight, thrill, confuse, frustrate, calm, intrigue, and move them in subtle or extreme ways
Innovators are Curious –
✓ They want and need to know
✓ They naturally focus on questions first:
Why, Why Not, How, How Else, How Might, What if…
✓ The actively encourage the mind to Wonder and Wander, and Process
✓ They continually challenge existing beliefs
Innovators are Willing –
✓ They have egos but they readily check them at the door
✓ They believe they can, and are Willing to learn something from everyone
✓ Innovators are among the first to admit they don’t have all the answers
✓ They are absolutely Willing and prepared to be wrong
✓ They are Willing to experience failure – they embrace it, try to understand it, and learn from it.
✓ They are Willing to suspend existing beliefs and judgement
✓ They are Willing to forget what they know
✓ They are Willing for things unfold in due course
✓ They are comfortable in their own skin and are Willing to feel and look silly
✓ They are always ready and Willing to dive in
✓ They are Willing to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty
✓ They are more than Willing and ready to get their hands dirty
Innovators covet experiencing Joy –
✓ Their overarching mindset positive and they seek Joy in everything.
✓ They find Joy in playing
✓ There is Joy in trying
✓ They find Joy in discovering and learning
✓ They experience Joy from anything or anyone that is “different”
✓ There is Joy in being surprised
✓ There is Joy in experiencing the unexpected
✓ They experience Joy in finding the beauty in everything
✓ There is Joy from seeing brilliance in everyone
✓ The is so much Joy from “new”
Innovators Desire –
✓ They Desire change – change with a purpose
✓ They Desire personal and organizational growth in forward reaching ways
✓ They Desire to be WOWed! And experience Joy when they are!
✓ The Desire to be moved and to move others
✓ The have a Desire to experience different things and to experience things differently
✓ They Desire to see different things and see things differently
✓ They have a Desire find additional options – and then find even more
Innovators are Driven –
✓ Innovators are driven by growth and growing things
✓ They are Driven to create value for as many people as they can
✓ They are Driven to make a difference in the world
As I review the above check lists under each Innovator’s Mindset domain, I am certain that we know the names I started with at the onset of this article – Edison, Branson, Jobs, Huizenga, and Bezos – because they fully embrace (or embraced) each Innovator’s Mindset domain to the fullest. And I am equally certain that there are more to follow in their footsteps.
image credit: tejiendoelmundo
Bradley (Woody) Bendle is Director, Insights & Innovation at Collective Brands, Inc. and formerly a VP of Marketing, Customer Analytics & Strategic Systems at Blockbuster, and a consulting economist. His focus areas are: Brand & Market Strategy, Product & Service Innovation, Consumer Behavior, Quantitative & Qualitative Research Methods, and Applied Econometrics. (twitter – @wbendle)
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