10-Rep Learning ~ Teague's Tech Treks

Learning Technology & Tech Observations by Dr. Helen Teague


Reflections on Innovation

Reflections on Innovation by Helen Teague

There is tension with innovation. The tension is often between change and status quo, between goal and process orientation.  Innovation is a process-oriented trek (Brown, 2009, p. 134) that is non-linear and sometimes “messy” (p. 17). For those raised with production quotas, fixed goal orientation, and inflexible deadlines and due dates, the unpredictability of  innovation can be downright scary and threatening. Brown (2009)  and Dyer, et al (2011) offer ideas for nurturing change and innovation from idea to practice.

The Design thinking required to implement innovation proceeds from a systematic approach that is flexible, non-hierarchical, and “constantly evolving” (p. 187). Innovative companies exhibit an interrelationship between People, Process, and Philosophy (Dyer, et al, p. 170). Drilling a little deeper, there are five qualities that innovators share. One quality is a cognitive ability and the other four are observable behaviors. Specifically, the cognitive ability of Association and the behaviors of Questioning, Observing, Networking, and Experimenting make up the profile, the “DNA” of design innovators.

Teague rendering of principles in Innovators DNA

Brown is unique in his advocacy for empathy as a component of observation, which he describes as a mental habit that looks deeply into the lives that we borrow when we observe (2009, p. 49). Empathy fosters an advocate rather than adversary relationship with customers and colleagues (Brown, 2009, p. 54).

Brown cites Toyota’s Steven Spears’ that direct observation and experiments are essential by managers who serve as coaches rather than fixers (2009, p. 189). Dyer, et al offers three ways to experiment: “try out new experiences, take apart products, processes, and ideas, and test through pilots and prototypes” (2011, p. 138).

Prototyping is vital to this experimenting phase of design thinking. Brown describes the process of prototyping as “inspirational” (2009, p. 106). Acceptance of failure, trial-and-error, and many iterations are necessary for innovative design thinking. Dyer, el al make the distinction between two types of projects: breakthrough innovation and derivative innovation (2011, p. 230). Some projects are inventive and some are re-invented or re-engineered. All projects are comprised of three distinct phases each needing unique design thinkers: Entrepreneurial Discovery, Delivery organizers, and Execution experts (Dyer, et al, 2011, p.

There is tension in leading from innovation (Brown, 2009,  p. 138) and promoting the kind of “combinatorial play” advocated by Einstein (p. 41). Business schools matriculate “deliverers not discoverers” (2009, p. 37). Daniel Pink (2009) notes the “mismatch between what science knows and what business does” while trying to solve the challenges of 21st century life. The importance of this concept is also addressed by Brown who describes the 21st century’s “epochal shift in the balance of power as economics evolve from a focus on manufactured products to one that favors services and experiences” (2009, p. 199). That there is continuity among influential thinkers such as Brown, Dyer, Gregersen, Christensen, Pink, and many others attests to the dynamic importance of design thinking for schools, businesses, and communities.



Brown, T., & Kātz, B. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. New York: Harper Business.

Dyer, J., Gregersen, H. B., & Christensen, C. M. (2011). The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the five skills of disruptive innovators. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press.

Pink, D. (2009). The Puzzle of Motivation. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation/transcript?language=en#t-1097899



Innovation Reading List~Update

Here is an update to my previous post on worthy books addressing the subject of Innovation.These updates reflect the books choices of my fellow doctoral students.

All of these books have been added to my Innovation Book List on Amazon.

Amazon Innovation Book List



The Innovator’s DNA by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen (my book choice, see this link for posts)

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

Innovation Engine by Tina Seelig

ON Innovation by Terry Jones

Design, Make, Play: Next Generation of Science Innovators by Margaret Honey and David Kanter

The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out by Clay Christensen

Exceptional Creativity in Science and Technology: Individuals, Institutions, and Innovations by Andrew Robinson

Digital Storytelling: A creator’s guide to interactive entertainment by Carolyn Handler Miller

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by David & Tom Kelley

Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn by Cathy N. Davidson

Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing, Teaching, and Learning Forever by Vicki Davis

The Power of Social Innovation: How Civic Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good by Stephen Goldsmith, Gigi Georges

The Leader’s Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills: Unlocking the Creativity and Innovation in You and Your Team by Paul Sloane

The Maker Movement Manifesto by Mark Hatch

Change by Design by Tim Brown (our entire class read this one)


Its In You: The Innovators DNA

In The Innovator’s writers Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen conducted 100 interviews over eight years to assess successful behaviors from leaders at Amazon and Apple to those at Google, Skype, and Virgin Group, entrepreneurs and executives. They differentiated five behaviors among this achieving group. The writers contend that these habits can be learned and practiced by anyone with the desire to learn them. They are not inherited traits resulting from a cosmic role of the hereditary dice.

The five “discovery skills” that distinguish the most creative executives and, the authors assert, can help anyone to become more innovative are associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking Moving progressively from idea to impact through 5 skills: associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking.  There are many connections between The Innovator’s DNA and Tim Brown’s Change by Design. For example, the behavior of “Experimenting” in The Inventor’s DNA matches Brown’s prototyping in chapter 4.

Teague rendering of principles in Innovators DNA
I think there is overlap among these skills…What other books on innovation also reflect or reference these attributes?


The Innovator’s DNA by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen



Solve or Navigate

Brown and Katz offer 3 criteria for successful idea generation in Change by Design (p.18).

These are:

1. Desirability
2. Viability
3. Feasibility

In a significant semantic emphasis, they write that Designers “resolve” these criteria to solve problems. In contrast, Design Thinkers “navigate among” these criteria in more of a process orientation (p.21). Further, they write that Design Thinkers shift their thinking from problem to project.

Which describes your methodology?

In Chapter 2, the Brown and Katz list 3 Elements of Successful Design:

1. Observation
2. Empathy
3. Insight

Elements of Successful Design

Created with IdeaSketch App

The Innovator’s DNA (Dyer, Gregersen, and Christensen profiled Scott Cook, founder of Intuit. Cook credits the design of his software titles Quicken and QuickBooks to his penchant for observation.

The authors summarize observation as the result of two main attributes (p. 96):

1. Watching people at work to see what they really what to accomplish
2. Watching for interchangeable solutions among different people, groups, or processes

I wonder, are these elements deserving of equal attention or does one or two nudge out the others in importance?




Brown, T., & Kātz, B. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. New York: Harper Business.

Dyer, J., Gregersen, H. B., & Christensen, C. M. (2011). The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the five skills of disruptive innovators. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press.


Tim Brown discusses Design Thinking

Tim Brown, author of Change by Design discusses design thinking in a 2009 conversation on the Brian Lehrer Show

Here is the Link: http://www.wnyc.org/story/31532-design-thinking/  (advance to 00:40)

~~Discussion possible for EDLT 762


Innovative Reading Book List

Trying to decide between these books for reading about innovation. It is a difficult choice. I’ve been sorting and re-sorting this list, almost like a girl choosing an outfit before school. In a way I will need to wear these ideas for awhile so perhaps the comparison is apt.

I created an Amazon Book List to collect all of them, then subdivided into a smaller list called the Innovation Book List.

Innovation Book List

BUSINESS INNOVATION in the 21st Century by Praveen Gupta (Paperback)
The Art of Thinking: A Guide to Critical and Creative Thought (10th Edition) by Vincent R. Ruggiero (Paperback)
The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization by Tom Kelley, Jonathan Littman (Hardcover)
Creative Leadership: Skills That Drive Change by Gerard J. Puccio, Marie Mance, Mary C. Murdock (Paperback)
Quantum Leadership: Advancing Innovation, Transforming Health Care by Tim Porter-O’Grady, Kathy Malloch (Hardcover)
The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth by Clayton M. Christensen, Michael E. Raynor (Hardcover)
The Alchemy of Growth: Practical Insights for Building the Enduring Enterprise by Mehrdad Baghai, Steve Coley, David White
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp, Mark Reiter (Paperback)
Beyond the Idea: How to Execute Innovation in Any Organization by Vijay Govindarajan, Chris Trimble (Hardcover)
The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen
Leading Change, With a New Preface by the Author by John P. Kotter (Kindle Edition)
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