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Innovation, Inquisitiveness, and Upbringing
Innovation, Inquisitiveness, and Upbringing

Innovation, Inquisitiveness, and Upbringing

In “How Do Innovators Think?” (HBR Editors’ Blog, 5:21 PM Monday September 28, 2009)
,  Bronwyn Fryer writes:
We also believe that the most innovative entrepreneurs were very lucky to have been raised in an atmosphere where inquisitiveness was encouraged. We were stuck by the stories they told about being sustained by people who cared about experimentation and exploration. Sometimes these people were relatives, but sometimes they were neighbors, teachers or other influential adults. A number of the innovative entrepreneurs also went to Montessori schools, where they learned to follow their curiosity. To paraphrase the famous Apple ad campaign, innovators not only learned early on to think different, they act different (and even talk different). Copyright © 2009 Harvard Business Publishing. All rights reserved.
This is the kind of upbringing that Thomas Edison (see a previous post) and the Wright brothers (see anecdote 1 and  anecdote 2) had. The context for this paragraph from “How Do Innovators Think?” is the initial answer to what Jeff Dyer (Brigham Young University) and Hal Gregersen (Insead) learned are important skills from their survey of 3,000 “creative” executives and interview of 500:
Dyer: 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. 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. The third is the ability to closely observe details, particularly the details of people’s behavior. Another skill is the ability to experiment — the people we studied are always trying on new experiences and exploring new worlds. And finally, they are really good at networking with smart people who have little in common with them, but from whom they can learn. Fryer: Which of these skills do you think is the most important? Dyer: We’ve found that questioning turbo-charges observing, experimenting, and networking, but questioning on its own doesn’t have a direct effect without the others. Overall, associating is the key skill because new ideas aren’t created without connecting problems or ideas in ways that they haven’t been connected before. The other behaviors are inputs that trigger associating — so they are a means of getting to a creative end. Copyright © 2009 Harvard Business Publishing. All rights reserved.
We meet again Kipling’s “Six Honest Serving-Men.” All this, thought for the day? No, a thought for life…

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