In business, innovation is everything. It attracts talent, engages customers, fuels success and drives businesses forward. The organisations that consistently top the BusinessWeek list of innovative companies – including Apple and Google – have proven this time and time again. They have become synonymous with ideas that drive change in their industries and beyond. Leaders such as Steve Jobs make history as a result of their unique viewpoints and “this changes everything - again” strategies. 

"The most successful companies are designed as optimisation engines. They are designed to do what they do better and better and better. Organisationally they need to step back and see what is changing and what they need to do differently," said Tim Brown, president of the award-winning global design firm, IDEO
"Many of the major forces that affect business are changing fast and acting in a volatile way. You have to find more space to explore and look for new answers [rather than] optimising for a world that probably doesn't exist today and definitely won't in the future."

Why some leaders do this well and others don't do it at all may come down to their DNA - innovators DNA that is. As Jeff Dyer, Hal B. Gregersen and Clayton M. Christensen show in their book,The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, innovators derive power from a common set of characteristics. The authors made this conclusion based on research conducted over eight years, including more than 100 interviews with disruptive innovators and analysis of key figures like Steve Jobs and Richard Branson.

During their research, they identified five building blocks in the innovator’s DNA: Associating, Questioning, Observing, Networking and Experimenting.  Although not all innovators demonstrated all of these skills, the book shows that changing the way you look at and combine information, and how you work with other people, fundamentally affects the way you view your business and the solutions you can find to maintain its success. As the authors put it, ‘to think different, innovators had to “act different.”’ In other words, innovation is not a characteristic: it is behavioural.

We believe that innovation is the heart of an organisation. To keep it beating, a good leader harnesses the emotion and energy of their team’s innovation to create accelerated change, while dealing with issues ranging from leadership and talent to functional capabilities and team dynamics.  If you want to shake up your business, your industry, or even the world, this means you need to make sure innovation isn't just in your bones, it needs to be in your DNA.

For our full interview with Tim Brown about innovative leadership, read our Huffington Post column.