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The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators

The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators

Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen, Clayton Christensen



For individuals, companies, or even whole countries, wealth creation rests with the ability to develop new products, services and solutions, smarter processes and find new markets. In other words, to innovate.


But how does one “innovate”? What is the process of inspiration, crystallisation and evaluation that can is the genesis of every great idea? If you don’t answer to the name Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, is innovation something that can be taught?


In The Innovator’s DNA, Brigham Young University’s Jeffrey Dyer, Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen and Professor of Leadership at INSEAD, Hal Gregersen, have tried to find out. The book provides case studies around people they regard as the world’s leading innovators – yes, Jobs is among them – and then outlines the five “discovery skills” that they utilise: 


1. Associating: Creative entrepreneurs see the connections that most people don't see

2. Questioning: Innovators are incredibly inquisitive

3. Observing: The most innovative entrepreneurs are “intense observers"

4. Networking: To shake up their thinking, innovators are intentional about finding diverse people who are just the opposites of who they are

5. Experimenting: Innovators are serial scientists, always experimenting


This is then the starting point for learning how to generate ideas, collaborate in teams and disseminate an innovation culture throughout an organisation. They include “tricks” to provoke new thinking, solve problems and effectively stretch thought processes, and even provide a tool to evaluate your own “innovator’s DNA”. In short, The Innovator’s DNA offers practical steps for theoretical improvement.

But Aramex's involvement with the "Innovator's DNA" went beyond the theoretical, to the practical. As part of INSEAD’s research contribution to the project, the authors analyzed the qualities of Aramex leaders to assess their discovery skills and discovery orientation. Here is a chart that maps the team's performance and their ranking in the percentile range (comparing Aramex leader skills to the scores of over 5,000 other high performing managers and entrepreneurs around the world). 


The discovery orientation (a combination of challenging the status quo and a willingness to take smart risks) encourages people to engage in the 5 discovery skills. It is critical to remember that each person holds a unique mix of discovery skills (their Innovator's DNA). As a result, according to the authors, there is no perfect combination of skills that all should aspire to develop.  For example, some rely on observation to get new ideas, others rely on idea networking; while others emphasize experimentation.  But all innovators ask great questions and think differently by connecting the unconnected. 

According to Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen.  

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