Forbes.com recently featured an article discussing one of my favorite subjects: disruptive innovation. The article centered around a book called The Innovator’s DNA written by Hal Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen, and Jeff Dyer. Within the book the authors pared the key skills of successful innovators down to just five:
Questioning allows innovators to challenge the status quo and consider new possibilities
Observing helps innovators detect small details – in the activities of customers, suppliers and other companies – that suggest new ways of doing things
Networking permits innovators to gain radically different perspectives from individuals with diverse backgrounds
Experimenting prompts innovators to relentlessly try out new experiences, take things apart and test new ideas
Associational thinking – drawing connections among questions, problems or ideas from unrelated fields – is triggered by questioning, observing, networking and experimenting and is the catalyst for creative ideas
While I wholeheartedly agree with the authors that these five skills are necessary for disruptive innovators I feel like a key skill remains missing from this list:
Ignoring the –n’ts
The –n’ts happen to be something that all of us wannabe innovators deal with on a daily basis. The –n’ts could be anything from the doubt that tells us we don’t have what it takes to the accepted rules that make us believe we shouldn’t be disruptive. The –n’ts are the voices that say something can’t be done or an idea simply won’t work. They are the hurdles we must clear before we are ever able to truly innovate (much less be disruptive while doing so).
Somewhere along the way the gentlemen listed at the beginning of the Forbes article (Jobs, Bezos, Branson, and Omidyar) developed the skill it takes to avoid the –n’ts. As a result these four, and numerous others like them, have changed our landscape for the better. They have pushed their respective fields further than previously thought possible, all because at some point they decided to stop listening to the –n’ts. Their innovations, disruptive though they may have been, created enhanced experiences for both producers and consumers. These were not innovations just for innovation’s sake; they were tangible steps forward in the way things are done.
That’s what we want to do here at Solaris. We have no interest in doing something new for the sole purpose of saying we were the first. We want to take similar tangible steps forward because we fully believe that disruptive innovation can lead to dramatic increases in the quality of patient care.
And while we still have skills to develop and –n’ts to fight through, the ideas tucked inside the notes piled on my desk tell me we’re well on our way.