What most distinguishes the innovation high performers from the less innovative is not some indiscernible secret sauce of mental faculties. What distinguishes them is their mindset. That is to say: their attitudes, assumptions and beliefs—their mental models—about how the world works. These mental models are often subconscious. Yet they can have a huge impact on someone’s behavior and therefore how well they perform—and innovate.
Innovation is different from other business competencies because it’s not about extending our expertise; it’s about repeatedly revising our expertise, at times rethinking our most fundamental assumptions and beliefs about our business. We need to recognize that when we encounter new information and observations, we must constantly check to be sure that when we see a cat we don’t assume that it’s just another doggie.
Innovators think differently. Corporate executives devote considerable time and resources to making future predictions, which they use to guide their decisions. Whereas entrepreneurs set out to create a future they believe is feasible given what they have to work with and the effects of the actions they take...
Many of us are not well positioned to gain fresh insights and make new discoveries. We’re not in the right mindset and as Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” So even when we’ve made all the other choices that set us up to innovate, we still have a gap.
Accomplished innovators routinely choose their imagination over their knowledge. They recognize, as Einstein did, that knowledge is limited—and limiting—and they don’t want to be caught unprepared for the inevitable changes and surprises they know they will encounter. They exercise their imagination like an athlete exercises muscles, not because it’s always needed, but because without exercise it won’t be ready to perform at those crucial times when it is needed.
We need to stop stopping ourselves. We’ve been conditioned to suppress our creative impulses and with them our capacity to innovate. When the world was stable and predictable, this may have been adaptive. But none of us lives in that world anymore. We live in a much more dynamic place where we need to constantly learn and unlearn and relearn...
Research and Development has long been at the core of innovation efforts of companies worldwide. While many other innovation tools have since come into use, R & D remains an essential activity—especially in any technology sector. And so it is with individuals.
The way organizations review ideas is no doubt heavily impacted by the mental models people hold. Yet those beliefs are rarely surfaced and examined. One of the primary reasons that one person likes almost any idea, while someone else rejects it, has a great deal to do with the mental models each person holds.
We all carry around a great many mental models and we probably haven’t given much thought to most of them. Yet, they may have a profound effect on how we behave. They impact the way we interact with people and strive to motivate and lead.