10 ways to know you are with a real innovator

  1. You are excited. You are energised. You are inspired. You know you are with a real innovator because they are special people who create and magnify emotions in those with whom they work.
  2. A real innovator always sees the greatness in others and gets excited about it themselves.  Having greatness surround them reminds them why they wanted to be innovators in the first place.
  3. You know you’re with a real innovator because they have a broad mind. Everything is surprising to them, and surprise is a state they love. By being surprised every day, they train themselves to be fresh in the mind, and open in the heart.
  4. They are real leaders. People want to follow because they know he or she will help them make their great ideas fly.
  5. They share everything. Real innovators know they might not always get credit as a result, but they don’t mind. They get their motivation by being part of something amazing, and are painfully aware that most people never get to do anything amazing at all.
  6. Often new things go badly wrong. If you were with a real innovator, you’d see them smile and make it easy for everyone to try again.  Theirs is the gift of making people feel a misstep is actually a valuable success.
  7. Often things go stunningly right. If you were with a real innovator, you’d see them fade into the background, leaving the stage free for those who have least visibility to shine. They know that making other people successful as innovators is the best possible way to ensure they’re successful themselves.
  8. If they are management, they almost never use their hierarchical power to get their job done. Inspiration is their tool of choice instead, and they wield it so that everyone is joyful even when they’re working above and beyond to make new things happen.
  9. Their ideas, probably, are brilliant. However, they know their ideas are less important than the ideas of everyone else. They have learned their role is to ensure the genius of others is brought to the fore, not to prove they are geniuses themselves.
  10. They are humble heroes.  And you probably wouldn’t even know who they are unless you dig deep to find them.

5 Responses to“10 ways to know you are with a real innovator”

  1. March 25, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Hi James. I like your list but can’t help but add one, taking it, in the immortal words of Spinal Tap, to eleven.

    The other attribute: good innovators are connectors.

    There. Now the list feels complete.

  2. Lee Nicholls
    March 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    I think a general belief in your company’s potential as well. Perseverance and patience to see through something, and be able pitch and apply innovation in such a way to see your vision become a reality, and in that you need to be utterly confident that you are doing the right thing for your customer or organisation, even when there maybe a cultural clash or a dissenting opinion. Often truly great innovation just dies off before it can become a reality due to lack of perseverance in the face of negativity or ultimately execution.

  3. March 31, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    If I add one, I have to take one away. I think your list is one of a mythical person and a good role model to ascribe to….its seldom you find all 10 qualities in one person but its common in a close knit team where there is a high degree of trust and collaboration. So, I thinkitem 4 is a general leadership trait not necessarily an innovator trait….and the one I’d like to replace that with is that an innovator can switch off the voice of the masses and trust his or her inner genie to keep an idea pure and intact long enough without allowing it’s intent and brilliance to become destroyed by the commercial “process”. That quality is personal resilience, persistence, even doggedness or a smattering of narcissism – useful up to a point!

    • James Gardner
      March 31, 2011 at 2:42 pm #


      I’d say your replacement is right on the money. Trust in the inner genie to keep the idea pure in spite of corporate and political compromise is… well I suppose it is the real name of the game. Thank you for commenting.


  4. I facilitate learning for a living and tend to be very humble with those I am helping learn. However, your article provides a great reminder for me to also be humble with my peers as well. Thanks.
    Best regards,
    RJ Johnson

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