The core skill of innovators

In reflecting on how we create innovation in the social sector, I came across this great talk by Randy Nelson of Pixar University.  He starts off by describing the problem NASA had: when they were looking to hire someone to walk on the moon, they faced the problem that no one was deeply qualified for that job.

If you want people to do new things, he asks, how do you screen for that?  One of the many money quotes in this talk:  “The core skill of innovators is error recovery, not failure avoidance.”

I love it.

And, by the way, this mindset is not, generally speaking, how the nonprofit sector (NGOs and funders both) thinks about itself.  We need more risk takers.

Other thoughts he shares on what he looks for:

1. Depth. Preference for the “proof of a portfolio rather than the promise of a resume.”

2. Breadth.  “We want someone who is extremely broad…we want someone who is more interested than they are interesting.”

3. Communication.  “Communication involves translation….do the translation at the sending end so it doesn’t have to be translated at the receiving end.” (techie to artist communication, for example)

4. Collaboration. “The amplification you get by connecting up a bunch of human beings who are listening to each other; interested in each other; bring separate depth to the problem….”

How to find great people to do new things and who can translate from one world to another.  That certainly sounds like the kind of thing we should know more about in the social sector.

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4 thoughts on “The core skill of innovators

  1. Reflective. My little bit. Involve more children in social projects from a very young age. This way children will start innovating early and you will find your workforce. All across educational programmes should be reengineered to include social studies/work as a core part of curriculum and slowly we will have an entire generation of young adults motivated to be involved professionally in the social sector. Most countries of the world do not have such programmes in schools.

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