Innovation has become the benchmark of success, particularly in the current business environment. Companies in every industry are stepping up their efforts to become more innovative in the way they work, communicate and produce the goods and services they sell. But with such an objective, the obvious challenge becomes, how to identify the individuals within an organization who possess the greatest potential to innovate.

While everyone has the innate ability to engage in creative thinking, there are seven common traits that innovative leaders like da Vinci, Edison, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs share; seven traits that propel them to think outside the confines of conventional wisdom and imagine breakthrough concepts that change the way you and I live and experience the world.

The seven traits of highly innovate thinkers are:

1. Curiosity
Curiosity is the first step toward discovery. It is the “beginner’s mind,” a deep, child-like sense of wonder about the world, the relationship between different things and how things work.

2. Imagination
Before you can develop a new idea, you must first be able to conceive it, to envision the very possibility that it could exist. Innovation is fueled by leaps of the imagination, making novel new connections between seemingly disparate ideas, concepts or objects.

3. Intuition
Making decisions based on facts and figures is fine in many instances. But true innovation is more often born from that internal “knowing,” the guiding force, sixth sense or gut feeling to follow one’s instincts, no matter how unconventional or illogical the direction.

4. Inventiveness
The ability to change the status quo requires an inquisitive passion for “tinkering.” Innovators possess the desire to arrange and re-arrange ideas or things in new and different combinations.

5. Playfulness
It is when you get “lost in your work” that amazing things begin to happen. Time, self-consciousness, seriousness and any sense of limitation falls away, and challenges are handled with ease. The attitude of playfulness is, “Everything is possible.”

6. Flexibility
The capacity to suspend judgment and embrace two (or more) seemingly contradictory or unrelated viewpoints at the same time helps create a dynamic tension that ultimately stimulates creative resolutions (solutions).

7. Persistence
All the creative talent in the world is of no value if you give up before the work is done. Persistence, the passion, willpower and enthusiasm to overcome setbacks and discouragement, allows innovative thinkers to keep trying new possibilities until success is achieved.

Of course, there is no secret recipe for innovation. It requires an ongoing commitment on the part of an organization and the individuals within to relentlessly pursue new, better ways of doing business, and to never accept anything less than the best possible outcome. But these seven key traits are an excellent starting point for building your innovation foundation.

Start to recognize the individuals around you who naturally possess these traits, and encourage them to make frequent use of them. And nurture these traits in others who aren’t as naturally inclined. Acknowledge and reward creative thinking, responsible risk-taking and questioning the status quo. And in no time you will have fostered a thriving culture of innovation which can lead to only one thing: greater success.

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