The Six Discovery Skills for Innovators


missing pieceHarvard Business Review contributing editor Bronwyn Fryer conducted a six-year study surveying 3,000 creative executives and conducting an additional 500 individual interviews. During this study she identified five “discovery skills” that distinguish them (reference article here)

The 5 Discovery Skills

1. The first skill is what we call “associating.” It’s a cognitive skill that allows creative people to make connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas.

2. The second skill is questioning — an ability to ask “what if”, “why”, and “why not” questions that challenge the status quo and open up the bigger picture.

3. The third is the ability to closely observe details, particularly the details of people’s behavior.

4. Another skill is the ability to experiment — the people we studied are always trying on new experiences and exploring new worlds.

5. And finally, they are really good at networking with smart people who have little in common with them, but from whom they can learn.

Encourage Childhood Curiosity

The study was further associated with an enriched childhood experiences and early development of the child’s curiosity.  It is difficult to disagree with any of these findings and it is of dire importance to duplicate at any expense these conditions for our children the sake of their future and the world that they will inherit.

What troubles me is the following:

The persons interviewed in the study were all outliers – the top .01% of success stories.  These are innovators who had performed according to prevailing business theory for a 20th Century American definition of “innovation”.  The probability that any single person has all 5 skills in synergistic quantity is extremely low.

The 6th Discovery Skill; discovering the missing pieces.

Suppose that a person has a high surplus in skill # 1, #2 and #4 and but an extreme deficit in #3 and #5 ?  The profile can then be just as easily associated with a sociopath destined for incarceration. So what do we do with the other 99.99% of people?  Are they incapable of Innovation?  Are they not the ones to “bet on” in the race for a cure from ourselves?

Mirror Mirror on the Wall…

It is not surprising that Harvard, the bastion of top .01% humans would, in fact, find themselves in the proverbial mirror.  However, they do leave us a hint in skill #5; the ability to network with smart people who have little in common but from whom they can learn.

The great opportunity for an innovation economy built on social media is the ability to purposely match most worthy knowledge deficit to most worthy knowledge surplus so that teams of people can be designed to simulate the ideal top .01% human and thereby vastly increase the innovation and entrepreneurial capacity of society.

Let’s rethink this

Such as structure for an innovation economy built on a social media platform is specified by the Ingenesist Project and others.  It includes a revised definition for innovation, a knowledge inventory, a  percentile search engine, a system for matching knowledge assets, and a feedback system to capture  and duplicate desirable outcomes – all integrated and securitized in a financial instrument.  Will the secret sauce resemble the 5 discovery skills that made the morning headlines?  Who knows? After all, that’s exactly how I wrote this article.

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