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Do You Have the Traits of a Successful Innovator and Decision-Maker?

In his keynote at the upcoming TechServe Alliance Conference, Professor Michael Roberto will share case studies like the Mount Everest tragedy of 1996 and the Columbia Space Shuttle accident to illustrate the types of decision-making failures that lead to disaster both at high altitude and in the executive suite.

Your decisions may not have life and death consequences like those scenarios, but they do have profit and loss consequences. Successful climbs, missions, and businesses require not only good decision-making but also innovative thinking – figuring out how to overcome challenges, meet market demand, and make the best of the opportunities presented to you.

Innovating and decision-making are both skills that can be learned, according to Professor Roberto. “Yes, innovation skills can be developed and enhanced. The best way to do so is to practice, practice, practice,” he said. “For example, design thinking is a process used to develop innovations. Learn about that process and then try applying it to a project. Learning by doing is the key.”

In a recent post on his blog, Professor Roberto shared the seven characteristics of successful innovators:

  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Growth mindset
  • Collaboration
  • Integrative thinking
  • Connectors
  • Grit
  • Tolerance for failure

I asked Professor Roberto about some of these characteristics and how they relate to decision-making.

Intellectual curiosity

If you want to excel at innovating or decision-making, you must be intellectually curious—willing to listen deeply and ask tough questions.

“Curiosity is definitely important. A good decision maker explores ideas in depth, and challenges conventional wisdom,” said Roberto. “They probe assumptions and don’t take something as fact just because someone asserts it to be true.”  

Growth mindset

“Growth mindset is so important because it tells us that we are all capable of learning and improving, provided we have the right mindset,” said Professor Roberto. 

In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck describes the characteristics of a growth mindset and a fixed mindset—you might be surprised to learn which mindset you have. “(The book) really does speak to the fact that we all have great potential, no matter the level of skill we have at the moment,” said Roberto. “We all can’t become Michael Jordan or Albert Einstein, but we can get better!”

Integrative thinking

Integrative thinking is the ability to create a new superior idea out of the elements of two pre-existing opposing ideas. Sounds like a master consensus-builder and decision-maker!

Professor Roberto said, “Integrative thinkers don’t simply decide between the two options that might be readily available. They welcome dialogue and debate about competing proposals. But then they have the ability to invent new options rather than simply select from an available alternative.”  

Tolerance for failure

Innovators need finely tuned decision-making skills. They need to make good decisions about whether to start something new, what to sunset in its place, when to pivot, and when it’s appropriate to “cut your losses.” Failure is part of the innovator’s journey.

In his keynote at the TechServe Alliance Conference, The Art of Critical Decision-Making: How to Make the Right Calls, Professor Roberto will share advice for improving your decision-making skills and avoiding decision-making traps. Since “learning by doing is key,” you’ll have a chance to practice your decision-making skills in this interactive general session.

Learn more about this year’s conference program and speakers on the conference website. Don’t delay: advanced registration ends on Wednesday, September 21.