Associating: Breakthroughs often happen at the intersection of diverse disciplines and fields. Innovators draw connections between questions, problems or ideas from unrelated things. Author Frans Johansson described this phenomenon as the “Medici Effect,” referring to the creative explosion in Florence, Italy, when the Medici family brought together creators from a wide range of disciplines — sculptors, scientist, poets, philosophers, painters and architects. As they connected, new ideas were created at the intersection of their respective fields, spawning the Renaissance, one of the most creative eras in history.
Questioning: Innovators pose queries that challenge common wisdom or the status quo. They love to ask, “If we tried this, what would happen?” Collectively, their questions provoke new insights, connections, possibilities and directions. Innovators consistently demonstrate a high question and answer ratio, where questions not only outnumber answers in a typical conversation, but they are valued at least as highly as good answers.
Observing: Innovators scrutinize customers, suppliers and competitors’ behavior to identify new ways of doing things. They carefully watch the world around them — including customers, products, services, technologies and companies — and the observations help them develop ideas for new ways of doing things. The observation trip that Steve Jobs took to Xerox PARC provided the germ of insight that was the catalyst for both Macintosh’s operating system and mouse and Apple’s current OSX operating system.
Networking: Innovators meet people with different ideas and perspectives. They spend time and energy finding and testing ideas through a diverse network of individuals who may offer a radically different view of things.
Experimenting: Innovators construct interactive experiences and provoke unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge. They constantly try new experiences and pilot new ideas, holding convictions at bay and testing hypotheses along the way. They visit new places, try new things and unceasingly seek out new information.
— Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen