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Using The Skills of Disruptive Innovators

Einstein was expelled from school for “undermining the authority of his teachers and being a disruptive influence.”

I was reminded of that item when reading the article Can Innovative Thinking Be Learned? (Forbes mag.), in which writer Erica Swallow lists several “disruptive innovators”: Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Pierre Omidyar, referring to the book “The Innovator’s DNA” – which fortunately also includes a number of women innovators.

She writes that they think and behave differently, and “possess a suite of skills that enable them to connect dots that the rest of us don’t usually perceive.”

Swallow thinks the book is “a motivational read — from chapter to chapter, the authors dish out exercises designed to help readers strengthen each of the five skills necessary for innovation.”

The Innovator’s DNA book site [] lists a free sample of The Innovator’s DNA Assessment (PDF) which includes these skills. You can make use of them as an individual creator, as well as a business leader:

Associating refers to your ability to make connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems, fields of study, or ideas. Associational thinkers draw on knowledge acquired through questioning, observing, experimenting and networking to link together unexpected combinations of problems, ideas and observations to produce new business ideas.

Questioning reflects your passion for inquiry (measured through the frequency and types of questions you ask) to find new insights, connections, possibilities, and directions. Active, honest questioning of the status quo provides a powerful tool for opening up new opportunities and uncovering new business ideas and directions.

Observing refers to your propensity to intensely observe (not just visually) the world around you on a regular basis — such as customers, products, services, and technologies — and through observation gain insights and ideas about new ways of doing things.

Experimenting refers to the frequency with which you explore with an experimental mindset, visiting new places, trying new things, seeking new information, and experimenting to learn new things. Experimenters constantly explore the world intellectually and experientially, holding convictions at bay, testing hypotheses along the way.

Networking refers to finding and testing ideas with a network of individuals who are diverse in both background and perspective. Networkers actively search for new ideas by talking to people who may offer a radically different perspective.


The photo is from my post Steve Jobs: Intensities and Overexcitabilities, in which I speculate that part of his power comes from his unusually intense levels of emotional, physical and other capacities that Polish clinician and theorist Kazimierz Dabrowski detailed in his theory of personality development, and termed Overexcitability.

The fascinating bio Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, reveals a lot about Jobs’ complex inner life and often disruptive, even hurtful, behavior as a gifted innovator.

More books:

The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen.

Related: The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton M. Christensen.

Albert Einstein expressed an insight on being non-conforming and disruptive when he said, “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”

Those are quotes I used in the “Einstein and other non-conformists” section of my book
Developing Multiple Talents – The personal side of creative expression.


Using The Skills of Disruptive Innovators

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2012). Using The Skills of Disruptive Innovators. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Jun 2012
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