About The Innovator’s DNA


“The Innovator’s DNA sheds new light on the once-mysterious art of innovation by showing that successful innovators exhibit common behavioral habits—habits that can boost anyone’s creative capacity.”

-STEPHEN R. COVEY, author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People


The Innovator’s DNA emerged from an eight-year collaborative study that sought to uncover the origins of innovative—and often disruptive— business ideas. We interviewed nearly a hundred inventors of revolutionary products and services, as well as founders and CEOs of game-changing companies built on innovative business ideas. Our goal was to understand as much about these people as possible, including the moment (when and how) they came up with the creative ideas that ultimately evolved into new products, services, or businesses. As we reflected on the interviews, we identified five discovery skills that distinguish innovative entrepreneurs and executives from execution focused, results driven managers:

  • Questioning: Asking questions that challenge common wisdom
  • Observing: Scrutinizing customer, supplier, and competitor behaviors to identify new ways of doing things
  • Networking: Meeting people with different ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives
  • Experimenting: Constructing interactive experiences that provoke unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge
  • Associating: Connecting the unconnected across questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields

Consistently practicing these actions—questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting—triggers associational thinking to deliver new businesses, products, services, and/or processes. Most of us think creativity is an entirely cognitive skill; it all happens in the brain. A critical insight from our research is that the ability to generate innovative ideas is not merely a function of the mind, but also a function of behaviors. This good news means that if we change our behaviors, we can improve our creative capacity.  We have developed the content and tools on this site to help you engage these proven behaviors to increase your innovation impact.