3 Insights on People and Innovation

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

Humans play an essential role in innovation. I have stated this many times before, for example in previous blog posts like „The 3 Most Promising Innovation Methods“, „Blue Ocean Strategy in Practice“, and „Lean Startup in Practice“.

Both humans and innovations are important and fascinating, but also complex and multi-faceted topics. Therefore, I provide some snapshots, that lead to three fundamental insights on people and innovation.

Key Elements

Dyer, Gregersen & Christensen (2011) focused with their research on exceptional innovative persons. They not only understood, that these innovators thought differently. They identified „questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting“ as relevant behaviours together with „associational thinking“, in order to explain their innovative successes. Furthermore, they found out, that people can have stronger „discovery skills“ or „delivery skills“. Both are important for companies, because they develop innovations and also have to deliver them to customers.

Innovative people are important and have a strong impact with their ideas and innovations on companies, businesses and the society. But many innovations are developed in teams, where human relationships are definitely relevant.

Amy Cuddy (2015) highlighters the importance of „respect“ and „trust“ in human relationships, in particular when persons just meet for the first time.

Of course, human behaviour and human relationships contain many more facets, but I believe that these key elements can support you in improving the innovation performance of yourself and your organization.

Humans are able to adopt or change their way of thinking and their behaviour, at least to a certain degree. Therefore, a company has influence over the important human factor in innovation for example through leadership, training and recruiting.

Real Collaboration

In general, I appreciate the trend of large and mature corporations partnering with innovative startups. The funny aspect is, that many key persons of these startups would never have made their way through the human resources filters of these large corporations. Sometimes the startup businesses fail after they were acquired by a corporation. The reasons can lay in clashes between the cultures of the two organisations, which often people from the larger side win.

In my opinion, people need, without any doubt, the willingness to collaborate and create outstanding innovative products and services. The focus has definitely to be on turning great ideas into successful innovations. Curiosity and creativity are further important aspects.

What is often underestimated is the scope: In a globalised world people tend to think in a global scope. For instance, in technology innovation you have to be willing to think far beyond our planet, because sophisticated technology that enables our modern lives has been flying around in earth orbits or our solar system for decades.

Needless to say, that people should possess relevant professional skills depending on the challenges they are working on. More importantly they should have the willingness and ability to acquire all missing skills that the development of an innovation requires. Diversity in teams in terms of expertise, experience, and background can create opportunities.

Steve Jobs in 2010 (Video Insider, February 08, 2015) famously provided some insights into the way his company worked and stated, „we are the biggest startup on the planet“. He put emphasis on collaboration and teamwork on different levels of the organisation. He highlighted the importance of good people and continued, that „you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win, otherwise good people don’t stay.“

Unfortunately, people in many traditional and mature companies care about a large variety of things, of which some are irrelevant for innovation or the company at all.

To make it absolutely clear: It is in the best interest of a company, that its employees turn great ideas into business success. You need people, that do not interfere this best company interest with their personal interests, such as career, status, money and so on.

Extraordinary thinking and acting

If you really want to set a company apart from competition and create remarkable growth and profits, you need teams and individuals that truly think and act differently. You have to go beyond the mainstream approaches, in particular in all dimension you recruit and lead people. The company and in fact all the people working there, have to be able and willing to deal with extraordinary individuals. To get an impression of this, think about extraordinary types of individuals, such as a Peter Thiel (2014) with his contrarian thoughts, who searches for opportunities others do not see or Elon Musk (Rose, Kevin, September 07, 2012) with the „first principle thinking“. Such extraordinary innovative individuals truly think and act differently. Never underestimate what challenges this could mean to an organisation.

If you choose instead to run everything in similar ways the other companies do, you should not be surprised when never something spectacular in terms of innovation and business success happens.


Lead your company and its people through these three fundamental insights in order to gain positive impacts on innovation and business success:

  • Integrate the behavioural key elements in every dimension your company recruits, trains and leads people

  • Ensure that people can turn great ideas into successful innovations and are not hindered or stopped by interfering personal interests.

  • Enable the organisation to embrace different thinking and acting as it might come from extraordinary individuals that can initiate remarkable innovations.

Get in touch with me today to discuss your needs and desires and find out how I can help you and your organization to reach growth, profit and success through technology innovation. Schedule Your FREE Discovery Call Now.

Sources and Recommendations

Cuddy, Amy. (2015). Presence : Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/presence/id972718292?mt=11

Dyer, Jeff, Gregersen, Hal B, & Christensen, Clayton M. (2011). The innovator's DNA : Mastering the five skills of disruptive innovators. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press.

Isaacson, Walter (2011). Steve Jobs. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/steve-jobs/id431617578?mt=11

Rose, Kevin (September 07, 2012). Foundation 20 // Elon Musk [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-s_3b5fRd8

Thiebus, Sven (October 22, 2018). The Three Most Promising Innovation Methods [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://buero-zueri.ch/blog/the-3-most-promising-innovation-methods

Thiebus, Sven (November 12, 2018). Blue Ocean Strategy in Practice [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://buero-zueri.ch/blog/blue-ocean-strategy-in-practice

Thiebus, Sven (February 19, 2019), Lean Startup in Practice [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://buero-zueri.ch/blog/lean-startup-in-practice

Thiel, Peter & Masters, Blake (2014). Zero to One : Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/zero-to-one/id795977428?mt=11

Vance, Ashley (2015). Elon Musk : Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/elon-musk/id887481567?mt=11

Video Insider (February 08, 2015). Steve Jobs in 2010, at D8 Conference (Full Video [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5f8bqYYwps

This article was originally published on www.buero-zueri.ch

47 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All