As her blond curls bounced down the stairs, she vaulted her words out ahead of her, “I’ve got an idea!” These words always came from our daughter’s mouth when she was hatching a new plan; one that inevitably involved my wife or I in some wacky way.
Whether we were at the beach, the park or simply sitting at the kitchen table, that toddler always had an idea. She was insatiable that way. There was never a day where she seemed to be out of creative new things to try or explore. I came to expect those new ideas from her.
That same expectation is what we assume from most innovator’s stories as well. The trope is the lone innovator in their garage or basement working away at their contribution. Our assumption is that innovators are never short on ideas. Their problem tends to be focus and follow-through.
But I would like to challenge this common storyline. In my years of talking with innovators, I have met many who fit the garage-dwelling idea junkie. But I have met just as many who don’t come at innovation with their own ideas. They are a different type. They are the trend watchers, industry integrators, and incessant networkers. Instead of starting with their own ideas, they listen and pull the pieces together into an innovative solution that no one would have ever considered. Let’s call these innovators “Integrators.” (Or Collaborators if you use the language from Simon Hill’s Future Shaper’s article on Innovation Archetypes.)
It is the Integrator that this article is focused on. For these innovators, one of the most important tools in their arsenal are the curations of content that help them to go through many ideas quickly to find the ones they want to bring into their laboratory.
A curation is defined by Google as “the action or process of selecting, organizing, and looking after the items in a collection or exhibition.” Curations are finely tuned collections that allow the user to quickly synthesize what is being presented because the rules behind the “selection, organizing” are clear and understood. This means that the user has a high degree of trust in what they receive because they know the value provided by the person or persons in the curator role.
For Integrators, the quality of the curations available to them will, in large part, dictate the effectiveness of their innovation efforts. So for all of you Integrators out there, I would like to highlight a unique innovation curation platform I recently discovered.
It is called IdeaSpies! This unique website is the brainchild of Lynn Wood of Sydney, Australia. Her vision is to share innovation that inspires action. What I found so fascinating about this platform is that its whole purpose is to pull ideas out of people and make them available for the global community to benefit from. Many of these ideas are already in some sort of product form. But others are simply ideas people have had and implemented at a local level (like the Chinese principle who created a dance routine to help his kids get exercise).
Whatever type of idea you post or find, the role it plays is vital. Say you work in a company that is looking for innovative ways to plug into the energy sector. You might search “solar” on Idea Spies and look through more than 10 ideas related to innovation with solar power. It could be that one of those ideas is what that Integrator needs in order to design their next break-out innovation or develop a partnership to work with those already doing it well.
Curations like IdeaSpies are launching pads for many innovators who are intuitively looking for the right pieces to build their future solutions.
So how do you know if you or someone you work with is an Integrator? Let me share with you a few key characteristics to be on the lookout for:
- High Empathy: Integrators easily walk in the shoes of others. They can set aside their own perspective and look at the world through the lens of those they are spending time with or studying.
- Media Consumption: These innovators consume huge amounts of information. They are always on the lookout for new ideas and insights from the world around them.
- Natural Integration: As their title indicates, these innovators bring disparate things together in creative ways. They can look across multiple industries, target markets, cultures and perspectives to pull together just the right ideas for their new creation.
- Constant Networkers: One of the ways that integrators gather their information is by incessantly networking with others. They are the ones who are actually excited to attend that conference or networking happy hour. They feed off the energy that others bring to the conversation.
As you consider these characteristics, I want you to do an inventory of some of the innovators in your life. Do a few of them fit into this category or share some of these characteristics? Maybe you relate to this profile I have described.
Now consider how the typical narrative of the lone innovator in their garage and how it fails to describe their approach, interests and skill sets. How can you equip this set of innovators to do their very best work? Maybe a first step would be to introduce them to IdeaSpies and encourage them to share what they find!