October 31

The Five Characteristics of Successful Innovators – HBR

An extract from Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s brilliant post on Harvard Business Review’s Blog Network on “The Five Characteristics of Successful Innovators”.  For the full article, click here.

Successful InnovatorsThe key difference between creativity and innovation is execution: the capacity to turn an idea into a successful service, product or venture. If, as William James noted, “truth is something that happens to an idea”, entrepreneurship is the process by which creative ideas become useful innovations. Given that entrepreneurship involves human agency – it depends on the decisions and behaviors of certain people – a logical approach for understanding the essence of innovation is to study the core characteristics of entrepreneurial people, that is, individuals who are a driving force of innovation, irrespective of whether they are self-employed, business founders, or employees. The research highlights several key characteristics (in addition to creativity):

  1. An opportunistic mindset that helps them identify gaps in the market. Opportunities are at the heart of entrepreneurship and innovation, and some people are much more alert to them than others. In addition, opportunists are genetically pre-wired for novelty: they crave new and complex experiences and seek variety in all aspects of life. This is consistent with the higher rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder among business founders.
  2. Formal education or training, which are essential for noticing new opportunities or interpreting events as promising opportunities. Contrary to popular belief, most successful innovators are not dropout geniuses, but well-trained experts in their field. Without expertise, it is hard to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information; between noise and signals. This is consistent with research showing that entrepreneurship training does pay off.
  3. Proactivity and a high degree of persistence, which enable them to exploit the opportunities they identify. Above all, they effective innovators are more driven, resilient, and energetic than their counterparts.
  4. A healthy dose of prudence. Contrary to what many people think, successful innovators are more organized, cautious, and risk-averse than the general population. (Although higher risk-taking is linked to business formation, it is not actually linked to business success).
  5. Social capital, which they rely on throughout the entrepreneurial process. Serial innovators tend to use their connections and networks to mobilize resources and build strong alliances, both internally and externally. Popular accounts of entrepreneurship tend to glorify innovators as independent spirits and individualistic geniuses, but innovation is always the product of teams. In line, entrepreneurial people tend to have higher EQ, which enables them to sell their ideas and strategy to others, and communicate the core mission to the team.

Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in personality profiling and psychometric testing. He is a Professor of Business Psychology at University College London (UCL), Vice President of Research and Innovation at Hogan Assessment Systems, and has previously taught at the London School of Economics and New York University. He is co-founder of metaprofiling.com. His book is Confidence: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity, and Self-Doubt.


Tags

Entrepreneurship, Success


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