Habits of Successful Innovators

Successful innovators have ways of looking at the world that throw new opportunities into sharp relief. They have developed, often by accident, a set of perceptual habits that allow them to pierce the fog of “what is” and catch a glimpse of “what could be.”

– Gary Hamel. What Matters Now

Successful innovators pay attention to four things that usually go unexamined:

  • Unchallenged Orthodoxies – to be an innovator you have to challenge the beliefs that everyone else takes for granted – the long-held assumptions that blind organizational leaders to new ways of doing business. Within any organization, mental models tend to converge over time. As the years pass, the intellectual gene pool becomes a stagnant pond. Success accelerates this process: effective strategies get translated into operational policies which spawn best practices which harden into habits. Innovators, being natural contrarians, are not afraid to challenge long-held practices and beliefs.
  • Underappreciated Trends – innovators pay close attention to emerging trends, to the embryonic discontinuities that have the potential to invigorate old organizations and create new ones. Innovators are on the constant look-out for emerging discontinuities – in technology, regulations, lifestyle, values, and geopolitics – that could be harnessed to overturn old organizational structures. What this requires is not so much a crystal ball as a wide-angle lens. Innovators learn in places that their competitors aren’t even looking.
  • Underleveraged Competencies and Assets – every organization is a bundle of skills and assets. Typically these things are embedded in legacy structures, but if repurposed, they can often serve as platforms for innovation and growth. Innovation gets stymied when an organization defines itself by what it does rather than by what it knows or owns – when its self-conception is built around products and technologies rather than around core competencies and strategic assets. To innovate, you need to see your organization and the world around it as  portfolio of skills and assets that can be endlessly recombined into new products and organizations.
  • Unarticulated Needs -In order to amaze customer with the unexpected, you must first uncover unspoken needs.  Customers, like the rest of us, are prisoners of the familiar. Innovators are good at spotting the inconveniences and encumbrances the customers have come to take for granted, and that organizational veterans mostly ignore. The innovator’s goal is to amaze customers with something they could never have imagined, but having once experienced it, can’t imagine living without.

Innovators who are successful again and again have developed perceptual routines that help them see beyond the ordinary. It’s time for you as a leader to help your team view the world around them with fresh eyes.

That would include leaders in ChurchWorld.

inspired by and adapted from What Matters Now, by Gary Hamel

What Matters Now

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