Our Research


Technical Report Abstract

Innovation.   It’s the lifeblood of our global economy and a strategic priority for virtually every CEO around the world.   In fact, a recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future.   The power of innovative ideas to revolutionize industries and generate wealth is evident from history: Apple iPod out-play’s Sony Walkman, Starbuck’s beans and atmosphere drowns traditional coffee shops, and Skype uses a strategy of “free” to beat AT&T.  In every case, creative ideas generated by innovative entrepreneurs produced powerful competitive advantages and tremendous wealth for the pioneering company.   Of course, the retrospective $1 million question is: why are some people more capable than others at generating innovative business ideas?

One of the central questions addressed in the field of entrepreneurship is why some individuals (entrepreneurs) recognize/discover opportunities for new businesses and products that non-entrepreneurs fail to recognize. (Baron, 2004, 2007; Kaish and Gilad, 1991; Shane, 2003).  Prior research designed to answer that question has focused largely on the personality traits of entrepreneurs. The surprising result? Successful entrepreneurs and successful business executives do not differ significantly on personality traits (Brockhaus and Horwitz, 1986; Busenitz and Barney, 1997). According to Busenitz and Barney (1997: 11) “After a great deal of research it is now often concluded that most of the psychological differences between entrepreneurs and managers in large organizations are small or nonexistent (Brockhaus and Horwitz 1986; Low and MacMillan 1988).”

Building on the more behavioral approach of social network researchers, the research described in this report focuses on the behaviors that individuals engage in that enable them to recognize or discover innovations for new products or new businesses. Gartner (1989:57) has argued for a more behavioral approach to entrepreneurship research claiming that ‘research on the entrepreneur should focus on what the entrepreneur does, not who the entrepreneur is.’ Using a grounded theory approach, Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen conducted a ground theory study to inductively identify the behaviors of innovators that were relevant to creative idea generation.[1]  The relevant behaviors identified in the grounded theory study were: questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting.  They then developed “The Innovator’s DNA Survey Assessment” to compare the extent to which a sample of innovative entrepreneurs displayed these behaviors compared to a sample of managers.  Consistent with the grounded theory study, these behaviors are much more common and pronounced among innovative entrepreneurs than among managers, including senior managers, in large organizations.

For an organization to be innovative, its leaders and workers must be innovative.  The first step towards increasing one’s innovative capacity is to assess the extent to which he or she engages in behaviors that have been found to facilitate opportunity recognition—and the generation of novel ideas. Then organizations, leaders, and individuals can act on those assessments to target those behavioral habits that are most likely to increase their innovative capacity.

Gaining better insights through Innovator’s DNA (iDNA) Assessments about individuals and their Discovery skills is valuable to the individual and organization.

To learn more about our technical research, download our full technical report below or visit published articles at these sites: