Thursday, January 02, 2014

Can You Learn to be an Innovator?

Perhaps you do not think of yourself as an innovator, but your success as a leader may well depend on your ability to be innovative—finding new ways to use more effectively the resources you have or creating a new approach to solve a significant problem or meet a major societal need.  Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators, believes that the skills or habits to be a successful innovator can be nurtured, taught, and mentored.  His conclusion is based on lengthy research and many interviews with young innovators, their parents, and mentors.

Wagner believes that the essential qualities of a successful innovator are:
  • Curiosity—the habit of asking good questions and a desire to understand deeply situations and processes on a deeper level.
  • Collaboration—the ability to listen and learn from others whose experiences and perspectives differ from your own.
  • Associative or integrative thinking—the skill or insight to perceive how different, often divergent, components relate to one another.
  • A bias toward action and experimentation—the willingness to take a risk and step out into the unknown.

One of Wagner’s major concerns is that most educational systems work to dampen or destroy these skills.  Students are encouraged to think within carefully prescribed parameters and are rewarded when they do so.  On the other hand, those who think “outside of the box” are marginalized and penalized.

Wagner writes, “Innovative entrepreneurship is not a genetic predisposition, it is an active endeavor.”
If this is true, and if we think that innovation is important in the church, not-for-profits, and service organizations, how do we begin teaching these skills to present and future leaders?




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