Are innovators born or made?

Are innovators born or made, is still a key question on every leaders lips, at ImagineNation™ our experience tells us that innovators are both born with a genetic predisposition and made through active endeavor.  In fact, major research projects carried out on the creative abilities of identical and fraternal twins found that 25-40% of what we do innovatively stems from genetics, whilst 60%-75% of our innovation skills come from learning. As “nurture trumps nature as far as creativity goes” we first need to understand the skill, and then practice it, which supports us to gain the confidence in our capacity to master the innovation challenge – to answer the question – are innovators born or made, well, it depends!

Innovative organizations are almost always led by innovative leaders who nurture virtually people’s capacity for creativity and innovative thinking through desire, experience and effort. With innovation fast becoming an organisations lifeline to thriving in an uncertain and unstable world, it seems that not enough organisations are investing in systematic innovation education to master the innovation challenge and address that key question –  are innovators born or made?

Innovation involves both necessity & possibility

If innovation is the result of a COLLISION between different internal programming, perspectives and thought patterns resulting in an explosion of creativity that leads to innovative ideas and solutions,  it occurs best when there is a powerful collision between the need to change and create something new and different, with an awareness of what is, or could be possible.

“Successful innovators have ways of looking at the world that throw new opportunities into sharp relief. They have developed, often by accident, a set of perpetual habits that allow them to pierce the fog of ‘what is’ and catch a glimpse of ‘what could be’.”  Gary Hamel

For innovators to be made from this collision of necessity and possibility, they require a unique mix of conscious awareness, competence and deep courage.

From my 30 plus years of consulting and corporate education experience, especially the 6 years in the high tech disruptive Israel Innovation space, I have found that the lacking just one of these three qualities will cause the organization to fail in its innovation efforts.

  • Noting that many, if not all organizations, may have a strong ‘need’ to innovate, yet do not invest in building the internal competence required to design and deliver the desired results.
  • Some organizations are often ‘seduced’ by CEO’S or consultants offering them limitless possibilities for expansion or growth. Yet, often an organization lacks the conscious awareness and may actually be ‘blind’ towards to the limitations and impact of their operating cultural patterns towards designing and delivering the desired results.
  • Finally, an innovation challenge require considerable depths of passion and raw courage to sustain their focus and momentum, especially when experiments fail and prototypes need to be re-built. To develop both the patience and the resilience to stay in the innovation game.

For a systematic innovation education to successfully nourish and nurture people’s creative and innovative capacity, it must enable talent to safely develop the provocative competence to;

  • Challenge the status quo, and actively ‘rock the boat’ to reveal, disrupt, question and dispute the operating beliefs and patterns that have converged over time.
  • Discern and assimilate the best of their knowledge, skills and experience to pay deep attention to cultural patterns, emerging trends, markets, needs and ideas.
  • Stay in the game and take the necessary smart risks to make the innovation happen.

To create the platform for a successful innovation education program, where innovators are made, and not born, three key elements need to be in place to surmount the innovation challenge:

  1. People need to have the chance to or opportunity to safely connect with, research and experiment with new ideas that may, or may not, be related to their current reality, to practice the divergent thinking and deep questioning required to generate new ideas in emergent and cognitive ways.
  2. People have to be inspired to want to or be motivated to explore distant horizons and stretch their boundaries, to discover new ways of being and doing things.
  3. People need to be taught how to do it, by developing the mindsets, behaviours, skills and practices of successful innovative and entrepreneurial leadership, until these become habitual and are embedded into the culture and delivered through behaviors, processes and systems.

Gary Hamel, in his new book, “What Matters Now”, appropriately suggests that we have an incredible opportunity to master the innovation challenge, by learning “from the crucible of crisis” and to remind ourselves that “we owe our existence, prosperity, happiness and future to innovation.”

Its up to you to make the final call as to whether innovators are born or made.

Its also the time to be proactive in facing the innovation challenge, to pay deep attention to ‘what is’, and find the courage to be intentional about ‘what could be’. The worst thing that could happen by taking up the innovation challenge is that you could  create a future that is sustainable, prosperous and happy, for your leaders, your team and your organization.

At ImagineNation™ we provide innovation coaching, education and culture consulting to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. Because we have done most of the learning and actioning of new hybrid mindsets, behaviors and skill-sets already, we can help your businesses also do this by opening people up to their innovation potential.

Contact us now at to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.