The ClientWise Blog

Innovation: The 5 Discovery Skills

Posted by Ray Sclafani on Oct 27, 2009, 11:17:00 AM

Innovation is one of the ten essential components that we, at ClientWise, have observed among top-performing financial advisors. These ten critical elements are the structure of the ClientWise Professional Advisory Model™.

In a recent study of 3000 executives, professors Jeff Dyer of Brigham Young University and Hal Gergesen of Insead identified the five "discovery skills" that are critical abilities of the creative executive:

  1. Associating: The cognitive skill that allows creative people to make connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas.
  2. Questioning; The ability to ask "what if", "why", and "why not" questions that challenge the status quo and open up the bigger picture.
  3. Observe details: Especially the details of people's behavior.
  4. The ability to experiment: The executives surveyed were always trying new experiences and exploring new worlds.
  5. Networking: Particularly with smart people who have little in common, but who can offer something to learn.
They found that associating is the key skill here...and questioning seems to turbo-chargethe others: observing, experimenting, and networking.

When asked to comment on what conditions nurture and inspire innovation and creativity, the professors believe that many of us are far more discovery-driven than we realize...but even the most creative of people won't ask questions for fear of looking stupid, or because that know their organization won't allow it.

Professors Dyer and Gregersen are especially critical of how our schooling and training robs the inquisitiveness that fosters innovation. They note that 4 year-olds constantly ask questions, but 6 year-olds don't...possibly because teachers value the "right answers" more than the provocative question. The observe that high school students have no curiosity whatsoever, and by the time we've reached the corporate setting our curiosity has been squeezed out of us entirely (unless we work for Google or Apple). Finally, they reckon that 80% of executives spend less than 20% of their time on the discovery of new ideas.

Generally, the financial services industry is not an industry widely-known for creativity (unless one considers the invention and marketing of things like "sub-prime mortgages"...Don't get us started.) It is more of an industry of "me-too-iveness".However, given the fact that financial advisors have much flexibility in the business models that they create, as well as how they choose to interact with their current and future wonders about the possibilities for creativity and innovation?

In a completely different vein, and as our small tribute to creativity, we note that today is the birth anniversary of the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. One of his most-quoted works, "Do not go gentle into that good night was written for his dying father...two years before his own tragic death at the age of 39.

His deep, resonant, Welsh voice may be a source of inspiration on this day.

by Chris Holman


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Topics: Innovation