Innovator’s DNA



The Innovator’s DNA is one of the best books on Innovation from some of the best thought leaders on the topic.  The book focuses on two key areas, how to be innovative individually and how to create innovation within an organization.  The findings are backed by a survey of CEO’s (both innovative and not) as well as interviews and general study of innovative CEOs and organizations.

In the study of Innovative CEOs as compared to general CEOs (ones who were less likely to disrupt and more likely to deliver), they found that “Innovators were simply much more likely to question, observe, network, and experiment compared to typical executives.”  The following are the key skills that make Innovators who they are and how to build them:

  • Associating – This is the underlying principle that allows the next four skills to realize their full potential. The next four skills build up a stock of “building block ideas” of which innovators can then combine and associate, like the Medici effect. “Put simply, innovative thinkers connect fields, problems, or ideas that others find unrelated.”  How to build: attend ideas conferences (TED, Aspen,WEF, etc.), keep an idea journal, set “idea quotas”, build an inspiration box (a box of items to jog your creativity).
  • Questioning – The study showed that Innovators constantly ask questions and challenge the status quo.  As well, questions can be used to appropriately frame problems as Einstein famously quoted “xxx”.  How to build: Ask “What Is”, Ask “What If”, Ask “What Caused”, Ask “Why/Why Not”, Engage in Questionstorming, Track your Q/A ratio.
  • Observing – Innovator’s observe the w0rld around them to find new inputs and ideas.  How to build: Observe companies, observe customers, observe with all your senses.
  • Networking – Innovator’s spend significant energy finding and testing their ideas through their networks (usually large and varied networks).  How to build: Attend conferences (in and outside your industry), expand the diversity of your network, “mealtime” networking, start a creative community.
  • Experimenting – Innovators “try new things, seek new information, and experiment to learn new things.” How to build: Live in other countries, read new content, develop a new skill, disassemble a product, build prototypes, trend spot.

Innovator’s also dedicate approximately 1 day more per week to discovery skills than their non-innovative counterparts and typically are most skilled in the Associating and Questioning skill sets.  If you are interested in learning more, you can visit to take a test to learn how you measure on each of these skills.

“Fast-growth companies must keep innovating. Companies are like sharks.  If they stop moving, they die.” Marc Benioff and CEO, Salesforce.  The authors create their own ranking of the most innovative companies globally by determining an “Innovation Premium” added to a stockprice based on the expectation of shareholders for the company to innovate.  The authors then say the way to disseminate innovation into a company is to focus on the 3Ps (people, processes, and philosophies) and that innovation must be present at top leadership levels in order for the whole organization to adopt innovation principles.  At the risk of spoiling the rest of the book I will close off there with a strong recommendation to pick up the book to find more frameworks, models, and interesting facts to help you and your team innovate.