Blockchain, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Everything, these and many more technological trends are currently sweeping the world, affecting how we work and how we build business. Amidst these changes, our technical know-how, and even our experience, quickly outdates as advancements continue at a rapid pace. One thing remains unchanged however, and perhaps is becoming even more critical in our hyper competitive world. And this is our ability to adapt and unlearn, to be imaginative and creative, harnessed with discipline and advanced social skill, in synthesizing these trends and developments and making sense of what they mean for us as we grapple with creating new solutions. The human being, at least for now, remains a central agent of change.

It is one thing to intellectually acknowledge this, it is another to consciously develop the skills, mindsets and capabilities to work within such a dynamic environment. Here are six skills sets, and their associated mind-set – what I call the 6 ‘I’s® of Innovation, that I have found, from research, to be critical in making new ideas work.

  • IDENTIFY opportunities by understanding trends, patterns and future areas of growth and cultivate the mind-set of CURIOSITY or a compelling desire to learn or experience something new. This requires six essential skills, one of the most important being the conceptual skill of sense making.
  • IGNITE ideas by creating novel solutions with the mind-set of CREATIVITY, an orientation and attitude that desires to seek or imagine new possibilities. Of the six essential skills for Ignite, one of the most critical is the ability to join unrelated thoughts into a new idea, or to think laterally.
  • INVESTIGATE ideas by prototyping, testing and researching with the mind-set of CRITICAL THINKING, by paying careful attention to whatever is being examined. One of the most important skills is the ability to ensure that ideas have the potential to meet real needs or solve real problems rather than just being caught within the hype of the latest buzz word of our time.
  • INVEST by creating new business models and influencing others to back ideas with the mind-set of COURAGE, or an attitude that spurs someone to act despite challenges or difficulties. One of the most critical skills is the ability to collaborate and create partnerships.
  • IMPLEMENT by making an idea happen and creating value from itwith the mind-set of COMMITMENT or being persistent despite challenges and dedicated to achieving results. One of the most critical skills here is the ability to be able to build and manage strong, diverse teams.
  • IMPROVE by optimising ideas and learning from success and failure with the mind-set of being CLEVER, mentally bright, having sharp or quick intelligence. One of the most important skills at this stage is the ability to scale an idea into another area of opportunity.

No one person has all the skills or mind-sets required to successfully innovate. This is why harnessing diversity and working collaboratively are the advanced social skills of our time. Central to developing and utilising these skills, is the ability to create alignment with others around a strong sense of PURPOSE, the ability to know why something needs to change, or be created, and the value or impact one wants to achieve. Here, giving direction and guidance to the innovation journey, and steering the course when things get tough, is an essential leadership skill.  What is critical is that we find out and develop our strengths and work with others that can complement us. If not, technology will continue to advance, yet our thinking skills, largely developed for industrial ways of working in the last century, will not keep the pace and our relevance, and with it our ability to exploit and develop new opportunities, will pass us by.

Published in Irish Tech News on May 10, 2018.