Open Innovation From A Practitioner's Perspective

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Key Skills for Individual Innovators

The conversation today on innovation tends to focus on the corporate level  – how can companies prepare themselves, how should they be organized, who are the best of the best, etc. It’s time we take a look at what needs to happen at the individual level (after all this is where “the rubber meets the road” when it comes to successful innovation).

The new innovation framework will require the development of new skills for all players.  These new skills will allow individuals (and ultimately companies) to thrive in this new paradigm.  A few critical skills that will significantly aid individual innovators are:

  • Learn to frame the question properly – When presented with a challenge, too often as individuals we focus immediately on ways to solve that challenge without taking into consideration whether or not it was a well-defined challenge to begin with.  Take a step back from the problem you are trying to solve and try to come up with new ways to ask the question. Become skilled in clear oral and written communication. Develop a “Frame and Connect” mindset – these new insights can go a long way to getting to the right answer!
  • Think of yourself as a solution finder – Most of us have been trained in a system that rewards individual achievement, however today’s achievements will be increasingly collaborative.  Instead of an individual performer solely responsible for a problem, think of yourself as the solution finder and utilize whatever helpful collaboration is out there.  Your value lies in defining the problem and identifying a valid solution rather than creating that valid solution.  Ask yourself how big and how good is the solution.
  • Learn to collaborate and share – Collaboration is taking on a new meaning; one where individuals freely contribute their thoughts and ideas without any guarantee of reciprocation or compensation.  For example, there are many open commons movements that are driving idea sharing and collaboration to new levels.  They are focused on topics such as open source software (Drupal), open science movements (www.sciencecommons.org), and open publishing communities such as (Public Library of Science, or PLoS), to name a few.
  • Stay informed with filtered information – With so many sources of information at our disposal, it can be overwhelming to attempt to digest everything we see and read.  Instead of examining the volume of information, examine how you filter it and manage information.  For example, limit the number of information sources you utilize to a select and relevant few.  Identify a handful of experts and thought leaders and read their blogs and articles regularly; let them be your filters and serve you up the most interesting information.

Any other skills? Please share your comments.

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