Tue 07 Apr 2015 | By:

All Your Answers Are Wrong: The 5 Innovator’s Skills (part 5)

All Your Answers Are Wrong: The 5 Innovator’s Skills (part 5)Entrepreneurs try things.

Sometimes they try learning things that have no relevant value.

Steve Jobs learned calligraphy. Turned out to be useful for the Mac.

Trying out new experiences is one aspect of the next innovator’s skill.

Siphoned directly from The Innovator’s DNA, our final one is experimentation.

Remember the other four?

Observation, Idea networking, Questioning, Association?

They all boil down to experimentation.

The idea is this: you want to avoid having to do random experiments to serve your customers.

Countless developers spend time and money making apps without any idea of their potential customer’s pain point, circumstances or even the kind of language they use.

That’s randomness at its finest. And waste at its worst.

The bottom line is that if you ask salient questions, observe salient situations, and talk to more diverse people, you will likely need to run fewer experiments.

– Clayton Christensen

What’s experimentation all about?

Exposing yourself to new skills is one thing.

The Innovator’s DNA offers us two more points of guidance.


1) Take things apart. Products, processes and ideas.

Experimentation exposes the internal details.

Surrounded by a confusing maelstrom of parts, the grimy engineer takes apart a car’s engine.

With a smile on his face.

That chaos opens the way for something new.

Hackathons and major tech conferences like Google I/O have a single unifying battle cry: let’s build stuff.

The point is to create something new. Creative, technical people get together and pick a technology (or an idea). Say, an app, or an API, or a piece of code that calculates your GPS position.

Then they take it apart, mess with the details and geek out… and voila! – you’ve got a new invention.

Does this create value for your customers every single time? Unlikely.

Could this create value? Definitely.

What can you take apart today?


2) Test ideas through prototypes.

You and I are standing in a dark room.

There is a switch in front of us.

Does it turn the light on?

How would we find out?

We could debate it. We could Google it. We could consult the goat entrails.

But obviously, the only way to know is by taking action.

For us, that means building prototypes. A manifestation of an idea. Hopefully, a lean one.

And sometimes, you need to break stuff to make space.

Henry Ford smashed the brick wall of his rented garage.

Why? Ostensibly to make room for the first gas-powered car.

But in reality, he made room for the Model T.

If I’ve learned one thing in my time at the Global Innovation Summit, it’s that it’s okay to break rules.

And so, it’s okay to be clueless.

Near the end, I was working with my friend Amy Ng on a problem that had no clear solution.

There was little time.

I had no idea what to do.

Just in passing, she said something I’ll never forget:

“There are no right answers.”

It dawned on me.

That is the nature of work that matters.

Do you have anything to add? Join the conversation on Twitter!

About Harry Red

Harry is the founder and CEO of Infyrno, a startup that's laser-focused on accelerating innovation through technology. He's fanatical about learning, questioning things and most of all, taking action. Always wears a red shirt. Connect with him on Twitter.