Though it sounds difficult, innovation is something that all employees and CEOs can practice. It is a skill, a discipline, and not an inherent gift for the special chosen few. Or at least, that’s what Bloomberg Businessweek’s Rick Wartzman believes. He responds to an earlier Bloomberg Businessweek interview with Elon Musk, the CEO of Space Exploration Technologies, where Musk differentiated innate talent from the skills learned in business school (which he argues are too rigid).
Musk speaks of himself, “Business is like a multidimensional probabilistic chessboard. The rules aren’t set, and the same moves don’t always make you win. A lot of people can be really good in a set-piece battle; my biggest differentiating skill is I can invent new pieces.”
Wartzman disagrees with Musk, citing many CEOs with MBAs like Alan Mulally, Bob McDonald, and Paul Otellini. No one can argue the success of these men.
And Peter Drucker would agree with Wartzman. Anyone can (and should) innovate; it’s not a special talent; it’s a practice. There are specific spaces in your business or in the marketplace where there is a need for innovation. Here are Drucker’s sources of innovative opportunity from The Practice of Management (1954):
- An unexpected success or failure
- An incongruity between “what is and ‘what ought to be,’ or between what is and what everybody assumes it to be”
- A process need
- A shakeup in market structure
- A shift in demographics
- A change in customer perception
- New knowledge