The great Battle (3): The DNA of an Innovation Knight
In the first part of The great Battle, I discussed the battle between the Robber Barons and the Innovation Knights. Robber Barons are companies that still perceive human capital as a cost item or production resource. This unilateral perspective kills innovation. Innovation Knights are the leaders of the future. Leaders that operate with self assurance from authentic values and modesty. I describe this future in part two. A future in which the distinction between consumers, producers, owners, funding organisations and developers will fade away. New organisation forms will emerge, that float upon the concept of Mass Participation: innovation as a social, cumulative and shared process. Not everyone will automatically feel at ease in this new organisation form and with this collaboration method. My position is that the real Innovator will feel right at home. But: ‘How do I recognise a real Innovator?’ This will be discussed in part three.
What is an innovator?
To answer this question, a real Innovator starts with consulting the collective wisdom of the internet. Google provides a lot of information on innovation, but not a profile of an Innovator. Wikipedia offers a lot of text on the concept of innovation, but not an unambiguous profile of an Innovator. So, I turn to the old-fashioned way, a dictionary’s definition: innovator = someone who introduces changes and new ideas in the way something is done or made; a pioneer.
Still, a company that is looking for a future leader will have to search for people with such a profile. One of the many job sites offers the following explanation:
Companies that operate in the vanguard – i.e. companies that consider it their role to introduce something new – cannot do without innovative talent in their organisation. People with innovative talent are able to:
· think ahead and see opportunities
· discover what people will be needing in the future
· think outside the trodden paths
· communicate ideas for something new successfully so that they are realised
This is starting to look like something. I am particularly drawn to the last property: communicating something new successfully so that it is realised. But how do I know whether someone really has the characteristics that allow them to realise this?
If we change the perspective from: ‘What an Innovator should be’ to ‘What characteristics prevent someone from being an Innovator’, we find the following obstructions:
· lack of time
· set in their ways
· lack of daring
· short-term thinking
· ego effect
· fear of the unknown
(Source: http://www.symbio6.nl/barrieres_innovatie.php )
If we can remove these obstructions in people, will they become Innovators automatically? I know people who have ample time, are definitely not set in their ways, have daring, and only think long term without being afraid of the unknown. The last property: lack of a big ego, does reduce the group significantly. But to call these people excellent examples of an Innovator … I don’t know.
New generation of Innovators
So what are the characteristic properties of Innovators? I return to the characteristics of the new generation I already mentioned in my previous article. I believe that ‘they’ have the ingrained qualities of an Innovator:
‘We think they are superficial. They are interested.We think they are indifferent. They are filled with passion.We freeze up in the face of the information overload. They are very much at home in the world of 24/7 information and communication.We learn linearly according to fixed patterns. They learn laterally using associations.We wait until someone tells us how it should be done. They discover and investigate.We reduce science to tricks. They can handle complex matter.We accept that the world isn’t fair. They consider honesty the greatest good.We don’t take them seriously. They respect everyone who is authentic and straight.We talk and expect them to listen. They communicate with each other.We are stand-alone. They live, learn and work in networks.We accept bullshit. They don’t.;
(Source: http://www. keesie.nl )
Four basic values
I myself am part of a group of – often young – innovation consultants. We help our customers increase their innovation capacity and then actually realise innovation. This is best achieved not only by collaborating intensively with the customer, but to install a real Innovator from Capgemini next to the customer. After some research, we have classified the properties we are looking for in our innovation consultants in four basic values that we feel describe how an Innovator looks at the world: Authenticity, Experimentation, Mastery, and Connectedness.
The basic value ‘Authenticity’ assumes that everyone has their own, unique profile. Recognising and accepting your own, unique profile is a continuous process. Thinking, talking and acting according to your own profile helps you grow as a person.
The Innovator is able to be him or herself and clearly state what he or she stands for. The Innovator clearly offers his or her opinion and is able to communicate it in an inspiring fashion. The Innovator is aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses and is open about them to others.
The basic value ‘Experimentation’ assumes that boundaries are the result of fears and that fears prevent you from taking action. If you surpass your boundaries, you experience a situation. That experience helps you become aware of whether a situation is a match for your unique profile or not. Experimentation is necessary to be able to grow.
The Innovator has the will, the ability and the action to evolve. He or she is always searching out the boundaries. He or she feels the need to experience what it is to cross those boundaries. He or she shares these experiences with others and uses them in new experiments.
The basic value ‘Mastery’ assumes that quality and success are primarily personal experiences. They are a choice instead of a standard imposed from outside. It is beautiful and important to see people evolve within their own, unique profile. The highest form of mastery is to be successful in helping others evolve towards their own mastery.
The Innovator him or herself determines what quality and success are. The Innovator chooses the path and speed of his or her growth within his or her own, unique profile. He or she respects the growth of others within their own profile.
The basic value ‘Connectedness’ assumes that other people are a mirror: they give you an unconditional opportunity to learn about yourself. The connectedness of people is not defined by place, form or time. A healthy connection between people is based on mutual dependency. Unconnectedness hinders your growth towards mastery.
An Innovator focuses on the unconditional sharing of knowledge and experiences. An Innovator chooses his or her own physical and virtual networks of which he or she is a part. An Innovator determines his or her own role and moment of action and determines how much energy he or she invests in the network. The Innovator creates intimacy with like-minded people, and thereby his or her home base.
The above four basic values constitute a first draft of properties that we discuss in our team regularly. We test them and modify them at the detail level. We also translate them to the practical work situation within the team and client projects. Now, we also include these basic values in our discuss
ions with new consultants, who want to work for us or with us in projects.
We find that a number of components are not natural matches with the environment in which we work. For instance, the Mastery component ‘The Innovator him or herself determines what quality and success are’ is heavily influenced by the quality requirements and management indicators of the organisation of which we are a part or for which we work. However, by opening up the discussion and sharing our perspective with colleagues and customers, we are already active as Innovators and are already, by definition, practising Innovation. I want to invite everyone to help us shape our first draft of basic values and Innovation!