The great Battle (3): The DNA of an Innovation Knight
Author: Koen Klokgieters
In the first part of The great Battle, I discussed the battle between the Robber
Barons and the Innovation Knights. Robber Barons are companies that still perceive
human capital as a cost item or production resource. This unilateral perspective
kills innovation. Innovation Knights are the leaders of the future. Leaders that
operate with self assurance from authentic values and modesty. I describe this
future in part two. A future in which the distinction between consumers,
producers, owners, funding organisations and developers will fade away. New
organisation forms will emerge, that float upon the concept of Mass Participation:
innovation as a social, cumulative and shared process. Not everyone will
automatically feel at ease in this new organisation form and with this collaboration
method. My position is that the real Innovator will feel right at home. But: ‘How do
I recognise a real Innovator?’ This will be discussed in part three.
What is an innovator?
To answer this question, a real Innovator starts with consulting the collective
wisdom of the internet. Google provides a lot of information on innovation, but not
a profile of an Innovator. Wikipedia offers a lot of text on the concept of
innovation, but not an unambiguous profile of an Innovator. So, I turn to the old-
fashioned way, a dictionary’s definition: innovator = someone who introduces
changes and new ideas in the way something is done or made; a pioneer.
Still, a company that is looking for a future leader will have to search for people
with such a profile. One of the many job sites offers the following explanation:
Companies that operate in the vanguard – i.e. companies that consider it their role
to introduce something new – cannot do without innovative talent in their
organisation. People with innovative talent are able to:
· think ahead and see opportunities
· discover what people will be needing in the future
· think outside the trodden paths
· communicate ideas for something new successfully so that they are realised
This is starting to look like something. I am particularly drawn to the last property:
communicating something new successfully so that it is realised. But how do I know
whether someone really has the characteristics that allow them to realise this?
If we change the perspective from: ‘What an Innovator should be’ to ‘What
characteristics prevent someone from being an Innovator’, we find the following
· lack of time
· set in their ways
· lack of daring
· short-term thinking
· ego effect
· fear of the unknown
(Source: http://www.symbio6.nl/barrieres_innovatie.php )
If we can remove these obstructions in people, will they become Innovators
automatically? I know people who have ample time, are definitely not set in their
ways, have daring, and only think long term without being afraid of the unknown.
The last property: lack of a big ego, does reduce the group significantly. But to call
these people excellent examples of an Innovator … I don’t know.
New generation of Innovators
So what are the characteristic properties of Innovators? I return to the
characteristics of the new generation I already mentioned in my previous article. I
believe that ‘they’ have the ingrained qualities of an Innovator:
‘We think they are superficial. They are interested.We think they are indifferent.
They are filled with passion.We freeze up in the face of the information overload.
They are very much at home in the world of 24/7 information and
communication.We learn linearly according to fixed patterns. They learn laterally
using associations.We wait until someone tells us how it should be done. They
discover and investigate.We reduce science to tricks. They can handle complex
matter.We accept that the world isn’t fair. They consider honesty the greatest
good.We don’t take them seriously. They respect everyone who is authentic and
straight.We talk and expect them to listen. They communicate with each other.We
are stand-alone. They live, learn and work in networks.We accept bullshit. They
(Source: http://www. keesie.nl )
Four basic values
I myself am part of a group of - often young - innovation consultants. We help our
customers increase their innovation capacity and then actually realise innovation.
This is best achieved not only by collaborating intensively with the customer, but
to install a real Innovator from Capgemini next to the customer. After some
research, we have classified the properties we are looking for in our innovation
consultants in four basic values that we feel describe how an Innovator looks at the
world: Authenticity, Experimentation, Mastery, and Connectedness.
The basic value ‘Authenticity’ assumes that everyone has their own, unique profile.
Recognising and accepting your own, unique profile is a continuous process.
Thinking, talking and acting according to your own profile helps you grow as a
The Innovator is able to be him or herself and clearly state what he or she stands
for. The Innovator clearly offers his or her opinion and is able to communicate it in
an inspiring fashion. The Innovator is aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses
and is open about them to others.
The basic value ‘Experimentation’ assumes that boundaries are the result of fears
and that fears prevent you from taking action. If you surpass your boundaries, you
experience a situation. That experience helps you become aware of whether a
situation is a match for your unique profile or not. Experimentation is necessary to
be able to grow.
The Innovator has the will, the ability and the action to evolve. He or she is always
searching out the boundaries. He or she feels the need to experience what it is to
cross those boundaries. He or she shares these experiences with others and uses
them in new experiments.
The basic value ‘Mastery’ assumes that quality and success are primarily personal
experiences. They are a choice instead of a standard imposed from outside. It is
beautiful and important to see people evolve within their own, unique profile. The
highest form of mastery is to be successful in helping others evolve towards their
The Innovator him or herself determines what quality and success are. The
Innovator chooses the path and speed of his or her growth within his or her own,
unique profile. He or she respects the growth of others within their own profile.
The basic value ‘Connectedness’ assumes that other people are a mirror: they give
you an unconditional opportunity to learn about yourself. The connectedness of
people is not defined by place, form or time. A healthy connection between people
is based on mutual dependency. Unconnectedness hinders your growth towards
An Innovator focuses on the unconditional sharing of knowledge and experiences.
An Innovator chooses his or her own physical and virtual networks of which he or
she is a part. An Innovator determines his or her own role and moment of action
and determines how much energy he or she invests in the network. The Innovator
creates intimacy with like-minded people, and thereby his or her home base.
The above four basic values constitute a first draft of properties that we discuss in
our team regularly. We test them and modify them at the detail level. We also
translate them to the practical work situation within the team and client projects.
Now, we also include these basic values in our discussions with new consultants,
who want to work for us or with us in projects.
We find that a number of components are not natural matches with the
environment in which we work. For instance, the Mastery component ‘The
Innovator him or herself determines what quality and success are’ is heavily
influenced by the quality requirements and management indicators of the
organisation of which we are a part or for which we work. However, by opening up
the discussion and sharing our perspective with colleagues and customers, we are
already active as Innovators and are already, by definition, practising Innovation. I
want to invite everyone to help us shape our first draft of basic values and