At the end of his 500-page book The Innovators, Walter Isaacson sums up “some lessons from the journey.” The principles he outlines are relevant to innovation in most organizations, not just those that were pioneers in the digital age.

His most overriding observation is that creativity is a collaborative process. Contrary to myths and movies, there is rarely one individual who has that “Eureka!” moment, rather teamwork is responsible for most modern inventions. Nor is there one moment that causes a breakthrough. Innovation occurs when someone builds on the ideas of others and moves knowledge one step further. Teams who represent varied backgrounds and areas of expertise are the most innovative and best at doing this and overcoming barriers. Powerful results are also achieved when teams have a pair of leaders with complementary styles — a visionary and someone to execute those plans. It’s not enough to have a great idea; you need someone who can handle the details to produce and market it for the idea to become a true innovation.

Take the lessons from Isaacson’s comprehensive study and consider them for your own organization. How can you constitute teams that are diverse and have a foundation of psychological safety so that they productively challenge each other? Can you empower leadership teams with complementary skills? What systems do you have to share knowledge and encourage collaboration?

Innovation is the currency of the future. Learn from those who created the digital age to create your own breakthroughs.

The Innovators: How a group of hackers, geniuses, and geeks created the digital revolution by Walter Isaacson, 2014

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