A Window into Mozart

“They showed no corrections of any kind. Not one. He had simply written down music already finished in his head.”

This line, from the film version of “Amadeus,” is how mediocre composer Antonio Salieri describes a musical score by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In real life, Mozart’s work had plenty of false starts. Nevertheless, the idea of creativity being nearly heaven-sent is a persistent one across many fields.

The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, a new book by professors Jeff Dyer of Brigham Young University, Hal Gregersen of INSEAD and Harvard’s Clayton Christensen, offers a heftily-researched look at how innovation and creativity work. “Becoming a more innovative thinker takes patience and hard work,” explains an article about the book on CNNMoney. “Groundbreaking ideas, even those that look like bolts from the blue, usually come from painstaking preparation.”

This was a concept that Peter Drucker frequently emphasized, most prominently in his 1985 classic Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Companies that innovate successfully don’t view inspiration as mysterious and elusive—or get caught “waiting around,” as Drucker put it, “for the muse to kiss you.”

Unfinished portrait of Mozart by Joseph Lange

“They view it as the result of concerted effort and sound processes.  “Most of creativity is just hard and systematic work,” Drucker told an interviewer in 2000. “Innovation has to have a systematic approach.”

That approach doesn’t even have to be fleet-footed. “While others rush around in the frenzy and busyness which very bright people so often confuse with ‘creativity,’ the plodder puts one foot in front of the other and gets there first,” Drucker wrote in The Effective Executive.

[EXPAND More]Drucker ultimately identified a very particular course for the plodder to travel by spelling out seven specific sources of innovative opportunity. “The line between these seven source areas . . . are blurred, and there is considerable overlap between them,” Drucker wrote. “They can be likened to seven windows, each on a different side of the same building.” They are:

  • Unexpected events (successes or failures)
  • Incongruities (or the difference between what is and what everybody assumes something to be)
  • Process needs (where you perfect a process that already exists or replace a link that is weak)
  • Disruptions in industry or market structure
  • Shifting demographics
  • Changes in perception
  • New knowledge (both scientific and nonscientific)

Which among these seven sources do you currently see as providing the best opportunity for your organization to innovate? [/EXPAND]