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How to Identify the Innovators

Those with strong innovation skills are rare; five traits will help you spot them

As maybe befits the stereotype of a large company, those with strong innovation skills at the world’s big firms are rare. In fact, only 7% of staff are likely to be high performing innovators at the average large company, according to CEB data. This is unfortunate, as companies with R&D workforces with high “innovation potential” produce new product sales that are 75% better on average than other large companies – equating to around $1.4 billion in additional sales each year for a company with $10 billion in annual revenue.

There are five key behaviors that mark out R&D staff who have strong innovation potential from those that don’t. According to CEB analysis, these markers explain over 70% of an R&D employee’s innovation potential so, in other words, if they exhibit these five behaviors they are highly likely to be innovators.

  1. Results seekers achieve personal and project goals. They are prepared to put in the extra effort and hours to achieve an objective. They see things through to completion and monitor progress against deadlines and milestones.

  2. Customer empathizers seek opportunities to get customer input and feedback. They champion the customer perspective in developing ideas and solutions, thoroughly research customer needs and expectations, and relate customer needs to relevant technology.

  3. Idea integrators identify common themes over multiple issues. They are good at pinpointing key information from masses of data, understanding how one issue may be a part of a larger system, sorting information into patterns and relationships, and exploring and drawing on ideas from a wide range of disciplines and fields.

  4. Influencers readily listen, consult, and communicate with others. They build strong relationships and handle objections convincingly. They are good at adapting their communication style to the context and audience, and explaining complex ideas to a non-technical audience.

  5. Risk takers decide on a definite course of action and prefer to take calculated risks rather than miss opportunities. They initiate action without referring to others. They are willing to stake their personal reputations on ideas and projects they believe in. Risk takers are good at identifying opportunities and threats from market information and competitors.


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