Make Room for Innovation: Key Characteristics of Innovative Companies

Lisa Bodell, founder of the innovation research and training firm futurethink, explains that with the right knowledge and tools, everyone has the power to innovate.

Lisa Bodell: I talk a lot about this in my book Kill The Company, is that there are many key skills that make up an innovative company. And these skills and behaviors I think are important for people to know. I don't think any one person typically has all these skills or exemplifies all these behaviors, but it's important as a small company or your team to have a mix of these so you can be very innovative or better embrace change. So let me tell you what those are. The first is strategic imagination. And what I mean by that is dreaming with purpose. There are a lot of companies that are strategic, there are a lot of companies that are creative, but there are very few that have the blend of both. So you need dreaming with purpose and we call that strategic imagination.

The second thing I think you need is you need smart risk-taking. So you need people that are willing to take risks within certain boundaries and they know what those boundaries are. When we talk about boundaries what we're trying to get people to do is to stop operating with handcuffs and start operating with guardrails, and that's something that a really good company does all the time. The next thing is we think that winning companies or innovative companies are resilient. They do not give up when they are faced with unforeseen challenges, they know that when something fails that maybe that's just getting them one step closer to the perfect solution, but they don't give up.

Next is agility; being able to deal with the wildcards because change is going to be constant. And then finally it's being future focused. So if you're a company that's only looking to the next quarter, and most people say that they aren't doing that but many of them are, that's a problem. You need people that are looking far beyond the next quarter or the next year but actually thinking about trends the next ten or 20 years out to not stay ahead of the curve but look way beyond the curve.


Lisa Bodell, founder of the internationally recognized innovation research and training firm futurethink, explains that with the right knowledge and tools, everyone has the power to innovate. She breaks this down into five key skills:

First is strategic imagination. Original ideas are great, but in order to make your ideas stick you need to dream with purpose.

Second, you need smart risk-taking — experimentation and risk are essential to success, but careless risk-taking can lead to disaster.

Third is resiliency, resiliency, resiliency. Innovative companies understand that failure gets them one step closer to the perfect solution.

Fourth, are you agile? You need to be able to deal with wildcards because change is going to be constant.

Fifth is future focus. You've got to look 10-20 years beyond where the curve is now to spot emerging trends. If your time horizon is quarterly earnings, you've got a real problem.

CRISPR: Can we control it?

The potential of CRISPR technology is incredible, but the threats are too serious to ignore.

  • CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a revolutionary technology that gives scientists the ability to alter DNA. On the one hand, this tool could mean the elimination of certain diseases. On the other, there are concerns (both ethical and practical) about its misuse and the yet-unknown consequences of such experimentation.
  • "The technique could be misused in horrible ways," says counter-terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke. Clarke lists biological weapons as one of the potential threats, "Threats for which we don't have any known antidote." CRISPR co-inventor, biochemist Jennifer Doudna, echos the concern, recounting a nightmare involving the technology, eugenics, and a meeting with Adolf Hitler.
  • Should this kind of tool even exist? Do the positives outweigh the potential dangers? How could something like this ever be regulated, and should it be? These questions and more are considered by Doudna, Clarke, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, psychologist Steven Pinker, and physician Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Smartly dressed: Researchers develop clothes that sense movement via touch

Measuring a person's movements and poses, smart clothes could be used for athletic training, rehabilitation, or health-monitoring.

Technology & Innovation

In recent years there have been exciting breakthroughs in wearable technologies, like smartwatches that can monitor your breathing and blood oxygen levels.

Keep reading Show less

No, the Yellowstone supervolcano is not ‘overdue’

Why mega-eruptions like the ones that covered North America in ash are the least of your worries.

Image: USGS - public domain
Strange Maps
  • The supervolcano under Yellowstone produced three massive eruptions over the past few million years.
  • Each eruption covered much of what is now the western United States in an ash layer several feet deep.
  • The last eruption was 640,000 years ago, but that doesn't mean the next eruption is overdue.
Keep reading Show less

Do you worry too much? Stoicism can help

How imagining the worst case scenario can help calm anxiety.

Credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY via Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Stoicism is the philosophy that nothing about the world is good or bad in itself, and that we have control over both our judgments and our reactions to things.
  • It is hardest to control our reactions to the things that come unexpectedly.
  • By meditating every day on the "worst case scenario," we can take the sting out of the worst that life can throw our way.
Keep reading Show less