A model for the generation of innovation

“THE DNA of innovators – or the code for generating innovative ideas – is expressed in the model on the right. The key skill for generating innovative ideas is the cognitive skill of associational thinking.

The reason that some people generate more associations than others is partly because their brains are just wired that way. But a more critical reason is that they more frequently engage in the behavioural skills of questioning, observing, networking and experimenting. These are the catalysts for associational thinking.

Of course, the next question is, why do some people engage these four skills more than others? The answer is that they have the courage to innovate. They are willing to embrace a mission for change and take risks to make change happen. The bottom line is that to improve your ability to generate innovative ideas, you need to practise associational thinking and more frequently engage in questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting. That will likely only happen if you can somehow cultivate the courage to innovate.

As innovators actively engage in their discovery skills over a lifetime, they build discovery habits, and they become defined by them. They grow increasingly confident in their ability to discover what’s next, and they believe deeply that generating creative insights is their job.

It is not something to delegate to someone else. As A. G. Lafley declared, ‘innovation is the central job of every leader – business unit managers, functional leaders, and the CEO.’”

Innovator’s DNA is published by Harvard Business Review Press. Available now, £21.99.