Wed 01 Apr 2015 | By:

Connecting Ideas on an Empty Brain: The 5 Innovator’s Skills (part 4)

Connecting Ideas on an Empty Brain You wanna innovate?

Then you need to master 5 skills.

That’s the short version of The Innovator’s DNA, written by Mr Innovation himself, Clayton Christensen.

Every entrepreneur should read it.

In case you’re coming in cold: so far we’ve covered observation, idea networking, and questioning.

Now for an exceptional one: association.

It’s simple: your goal is to uncover valuable, unexplored connections between ideas.

When the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite, a bunch of scientists figured out how to determine its speed and orbit, based on its signal. Later, people wondered: can we do the inverse problem? Turn this on its head?

The result of that work is called GPS.

Key to this was Sputnik. Nobody guessed that.

Tremendous value can be unlocked by chasing the right association.

Best part? Association is an ancient concept. Time-tested.

Frequently consider the interconnection of all things.

– Marcus Aurelius

Consider this. Right here, right now, you might be just one association away from a great discovery.

Even small improvements in this will pay off.

Exhaust all the obvious ideas. Then keep going.

This is a key point in Think Better by Tim Hurson. You must rid your mind of the obvious ideas to make space for valuable ones.

The Greeks called it kenosis. Self-emptying.

Makes sense, right? Valuable ideas are the high-hanging fruit. You have no space to pick them if your basket is full of low-hanging ones.

Here’s what you do.

Got a problem? Check.

Got lots of ideas on how to attack it? Check.

Then go make a list of them.

When you’re done, realize you’re not done. The whole point is to keep going.

Write down more ideas.

Yes, you will struggle. That’s how you know you might be on to something.

The key difficulty now is emotional labor.

As Seth Godin teaches us in What to do when it’s your turn, you want to stay with the tension.

You must develop curiosity as to what happens when you do.

Sharp curiosity is your best ammunition in this fight.

How much is it worth to you to release the tension, right now? What happens to your work if you’re able to wait a little longer?

– Seth Godin

We’re nearly there.

The final innovator’s skill is not ancient, but it’s powerful. Modern.

It’s the capstone that finishes the pyramid.

Look for it soon…

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.