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60 Innovation Skills

        posted by , February 26, 2013

Innovation is tricky.

It's elusive. It often comes when you least expect it. It can come when your at play or when you're deep in thought. It's related to intelligence but moderate intelligence is often enough.

Innovation can't be automated, standardized or taught.

As elusive as innovation is, there are a number of abilities, skills and techniques that can spark it.

The following skills are commonly associated with innovation. Due to the elusive nature of innovation, this list can never be complete.

1. Idea Formation
2. Applying Innovation Techniques
3. Decision Making
4. Design
5. Problem Solving

Idea Formation

6. Counterfactual Thinking
The ability to forget about known facts to think of novel concepts.

7. Divergent Thinking
The ability to entertain many conflicting ideas in parallel.

8. Creative Thinking
General creative ability.

9. Intelligence
Tradition intelligence that can be measured by an IQ test.

10. Fluid Intelligence
The ability to solve novel problems (i.e. when your existing knowledge doesn't apply to the problem).

11. Emotional Intelligence
The ability to perceive, analyze, understand, use and manage emotions.

12. Conceptual Blending
The ability to blend concepts. For example, artistic concepts with engineering concepts.

13. Unbiased Thinking
The ability to overcome logical biases.

14. Intuition
An innate sense of things.

15. Trend Awareness
Innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum. For example, great art often emerges from artistic movements in which artists feed-off each others' ideas.

16. Sapience
Another word for wisdom.

Applying Innovation Techniques

17. Research
Innovation often involves researching off-topic knowledge in search of inspiration.

18. Incubation Techniques
It's well known that inspiration often comes suddenly after a long walk or nap.

19. Modeling Concepts
Decomposing complex ideas into simple models.

20. Framing Problems
If I had an hour to save the world I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions.
~ Einstein
How you frame a problem is often key to the solution.

21. Thought Experiment
Developing storylines that test your ideas.

22. Exploring Possibilities
Generating lists of possibilities (e.g. brainstorming).

23. Prototyping
Building working models of ideas.

24. Aleatory Techniques
Incorporating an element of chance to generate new ideas (e.g. rolling dice).

25. Improvisation
Reacting to the moment.

26. Inducing Change of Perspective
Experiments designed to change the perspective of a team of innovators (e.g. going to a bar).

27. Multiple Idea Facilitation
Games and processes that generate ideas.

28. Mental State Shift
Activities designed to change your mental state (e.g. sleeping, socializing).

29. Hypothesis Testing
Testing the validity of new ideas.

30. Morphological Analysis
Generating a list of all possible solutions to a problem (no matter how remote).

Decision Making

31. Gut Decisions
The application of intuition to decisions.

32. Decision Analysis
Analysis of a decision (e.g. decomposing it or rating it).

33. Analogies
Using one subject to model another subject (e.g. modeling space flight after bumble bee flight).

34. Remote Associations
Associating seemingly unrelated things.

35. Remote Consequences
Thinking of remote consequences (e.g. butterfly effect).

36. Sensemaking
Making sense of chaos.


37. Artistic Ability
Ability in the arts (e.g. music).

38. Design Sense
An innate sense of design.

39. Aesthetic Sense
A sense of what makes art, design and culture attractive to the mind.

40. Functional Sense
A sense of what makes something useful.

41. Design Analysis
The ability to critique a design.

42. User-centered Design
Design focused on users.

43. Use-centered Design
Design focused on the usefulness of something.

44. Critical Design
A critical theory approach to design.

45. Speculative Design
Most design starts with a problem and designs a solution. Speculative Design starts with a design and then determines if it solves any problems.

Problem Solving

46. Lateral Thinking
Reasoning that is not immediately obvious. Lateral thinking often involves jumps of logic.

47. Developing Useful Metaphors
Developing symbolic representations of a problem.

48. Problem Visualization
Drawing pictures and diagrams of a problem.

49. Reduction
Reducing a complex problem into a simpler representation.

Soft Skills

50. Courage
51. Curiosity
52. Imagination
53. Sociability
54. Playfulness
55. Introspection
56. Resilience & Endurance
57. Originality
58. Openness
59. Tolerance for Ambiguity
60. Optimism

This post is part of our Skills Inventory.

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