It’s the current buzzword and the thing to be in every industry. It’s what every hiring manager is looking for, and what every CEO wants to be known for. Yet, it’s one of the most difficult titles to earn because being innovative is no easy task. It requires persistence, dedication, and creativity. In their work “The Innovator’s DNA“, Dyer and his colleagues focus on five key qualities their research showed are characteristic to innovative individuals: associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking. Collectively, the authors call them “The Innovator’s DNA”, and these skills work together to foster what every executive, and myself, seeks to be yet struggles to demonstrate.
The authors describe “The Innovator’s DNA” as 1/3 genetic and 2/3 learned. Upon self-reflection, I believe I possess these qualities inherently, but like the authors state it requires time, energy, and commitment to develop and display them. I’ve found that while I may demonstrate observation, often its only when I put myself in uncomfortable situations that I am forced to begin associating and networking. Nonetheless, I spend the majority of my time in classrooms or volunteering, places where it is easy to get caught up in repetition. I often do not experiment or question since my actions have always worked in these situations. Yet if I consistently worked to be more innovative in these areas, my colleagues and I could excel.
Despite not often exemplifying the majority of the DNA characteristics, my ability to observe is my unique and vital skill. I have always believed that I can learn the most from witnessing what others have both failed and excelled in. Furthermore, I often find myself observing others in every day life to see if the manner in which they perform tasks are, or are not, successful. I then take that information and expand upon it, which permits me to come up with alternative and unique ways to conduct myself and perform tasks. I feel my constant self-reflection exemplifies this innovative skill as well. Without reminiscing on my successes and failures, I believe I will never grow because my past holds more untapped information than I realize.
I have incorporated this skill through my online blog. Before launching it, I spent more than a year watching how others went about running similar platforms, looking for what their viewers responded positively and negatively to. I adapted that information to my own plan, which allowed me to reach my ideal audience and gain a following very quickly. Yet, I can take this same concept and apply it to a psychology graduate school by illustrating to future mentors how my observations can improve their research. Not only can I find alternative ways to conduct the research, I can observe people naturally in an effort to find new questions to study. As an employee, I can use this characteristic with regards to the consumer. Simply going into the “real world”, watching how the consumer behaves, and developing products designed around those behaviors can bring enormous benefit to a company. Furthermore, I believe this skill is useless without employing it in self-reflection. By continuing to meditate on my actions and responses, I can discover what I need to improve to become the person I want to be.
Demonstrating the five innovative characteristics is no easy task, but a desire to learn and practice them is the first step to becoming a creative thinker. I find that while I do display qualities of “The Innovator’s DNA”, I tend to get caught in the mantra of what has always worked for me. Yet, recognizing my strong ability to observe is a crucial step. I can employ it in an effort to build my skills in the other four areas. Being observant of others and my past is what has permitted me to achieve certain successes, and I believe my future success relies heavily on my ability to show graduate school mentors and employers how this innovative quality can bring about new opportunities for them.