Innovation Blueprint: Cultivating An Innovation Mindset

Innovation Blueprint: Cultivating An Innovation Mindset
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Summary: To complete the innovation mindset journey from dreaming and doubting to persevering, transforming, and championing, leaders need to cultivate a growth mindset, connect the dots, network broadly, strengthen their storytelling skills, and embrace lifelong learning to drive and sustain innovation.

Network, Story-Tell, And Embrace Lifelong Learning

Innovation is a novelty that creates value for customers and stakeholders. While more than 80% of executives surveyed by McKinsey in 2021 said that innovation was one of their three key priorities, only 10% are content with their team's innovation efforts. If innovation is ubiquitous, why is it so difficult to achieve and sustain? This series of "Innovation Blueprint" articles will explore critical elements of cultivating an innovation ecosystem, including measuring and scaling innovation for your organization. This article focuses on the 5 key behaviors you and your team will need to develop an innovation mindset.

What Is An Innovation Mindset, And Why Is It Important?

An innovation mindset is a prerequisite to embracing and driving innovation in your organization. In 2015, George Couros defined an innovation mindset as "the belief that abilities, intelligence, and talents are developed so that they lead to the creation of new and better ideas" that add value to the organization. [1] An innovation mindset is necessary because it is a prerequisite element to embracing, fostering, and driving innovation in your organization. Leaders must first believe in order to champion innovation, which, in turn, inspires teams and organizations to build innovation.

Also, in 2015, Michael Docherty defined the innovation mindset model as a journey of six stages: dreaming, doubting, quitting or persevering, transforming, and finally, championing. [2] To champion innovation in the innovation mindset journey, you need 5 essential skills: developing a growth mindset, connecting the dots, networking, storytelling, and embracing lifelong learning.

1. Developing A Growth Mindset

To tackle the first stage of Docherty's innovation mindset journey, which is dreaming, you have to believe you can do it. The dreaming stage is where you think your innovative idea is terrific, and you are, well, dreaming about what you can accomplish and how the idea will help solve an unmet customer need or fix a complex process step in your organization. In this dreaming stage, it is crucial to develop a growth mindset because the journey ahead will be challenging and complicated. As defined by Carol Dweck in her seminal work, a growth mindset enables you to embrace every challenge in the journey as a growth and learning opportunity. During this stage, you must see effort as the path to mastery and welcome the criticism of your idea that you will face.

2. Connecting The Dots

The next skill you will need is the ability to connect the dots. This skill is critical in the doubting phase of your innovation mindset because it will enable your to think critically and tackle doubt. This is the phase when you receive negative feedback and criticism on your idea. However, you have to stay the course by connecting the dots between the customer need, user feedback, and your innovative idea, goal, and approach. Of course, you will need to adapt and iterate on your idea. Connecting the dots enables you to dig deeper into your innovative idea, review data, learn from others' similar experiences, and think differently about how you will tackle the customer problem at hand.

3. Networking

The third critical skill relates to networking. As you enter the quitting or persevering stage of the innovation mindset journey, you will need your network to discuss your idea with and learn from it. Essentially, "your network is your net worth," as Warren Buffet said. The depth and breadth of your network will determine whether you quit or persevere in this stage. Your network's wisdom can help you rethink and even iterate your innovative idea, and their encouragement will keep you going.

Additionally, your trusted network can offer you guidance, honest perspective, and constructive criticism, which you also need, especially at this stage. In her book Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, Professor Herminia Ibarra discusses the importance of building a strategic network across and outside your organization and industry, and far beyond the personal and operational network of the colleagues you connect with day to day. [3]

4. Storytelling

The fourth essential skill in your innovation mindset journey is storytelling. As you traverse the transformation stage of your innovation mindset, having persevered thanks to your network, you now will need to be able to succinctly describe the value that your innovative idea brings to the customer and the organization. With solid storytelling skills, you can persuade your leadership, stakeholders, funders, and naysayers why your innovative idea is bankable and worth exploring. Storytelling is an art you can practice and master using crisp and unambiguous language that simplifies concepts and highlights the essential elements of your innovative idea.

5. Embracing Lifelong Learning

By now, you have transversed the innovation mindset journey through the challenging stages of being threatened by doubt and thoughts of quitting; you relied on your network; and you amplified your storytelling about your innovative idea. Finally, you are at the championing stage. The journey does not end here, however. You will need to continue to learn and iterate on your idea and champion innovation so that your team and organization can move out on innovation. An essential skill you need to develop is embracing lifelong learning.

As Peter Drucker said, the skill of learning new skills is the one critical skill of the 21st century, and, essentially, other skills will become obsolete. Lifelong learning means that you set a big goal on what you want to learn next, and you also commit small steps each day to get there. By embracing lifelong knowing, you open the door to new ideas and create opportunities for new collisions with other learners, which, in turn, pave the way to continuous and sustained innovation within your organization.


Developing an innovation mindset is critical to the ability of leaders to champion innovation so that they can inspire their teams and organizations to drive innovation and improve business performance results. To complete the innovation mindset journey from dreaming and doubting to persevering, transforming, and championing, leaders need to cultivate a growth mindset, connect the dots, network broadly, strengthen their storytelling skills, and embrace lifelong learning to drive and sustain innovation.


[1] 8 Characteristics of the "Innovator's Mindset"

[2] The Rollercoaster Ride of Achievement

[3] Act like a leader, think like a leader