Question: To be a successful innovator, do you need to be passionate?


It is often said that passion is required to be successful at what you do. Having read a recent blog on LinkedIn, the phrase “passionate” should be avoided as it is an overused corporate “buzz” word!

Many organisations are moving away from skill or competency-based selection processes as being the first criteria for hiring, and start exploring a candidate’s character or values to ensure they match with the organisations. Skills are still important, however, they can often be taught or improved, while values remain quite fixed. One key value is whether a candidate has true passion for the potential role on offer. The candidate must demonstrate that they desire the role and give confidence that they will deliver.

Does this apply to innovation performance? In a previous post, a key trait of a successful innovator is being “passionately dissatisfied”. I often found myself in situations where I was “pushing water uphill” and to keep going, I had to connect to my inner beliefs and values to get through the tough times.

However, is this true? Innovation cannot be an individual activity, perhaps invention can be, but innovators are not isolated people. Indeed, Stephen Johnson in his book, “Where Good Ideas Come From”, discusses how each innovation opens up new avenues for further improvement; this is often by different people who make the different connections. He calls this mode of discovery, the “Adjacent Possible”.

Innovation has to be everyone’s role, but innovation is not just about having ideas. Ideas need implementing, which often requires teamwork. There are many roles in the practice of innovation and the best list I have found is Tom Kelley’s list in the “Ten Faces of Innovation”:

  1. Anthropologist
  2. Experimenter
  3. Cross-Pollinator
  4. Hurdler
  5. Collaborator
  6. Director
  7. Experience Architect
  8. Set Designer
  9. Storyteller
  10. Caregiver
Step up to the plate
Step up to the plate

To have innovation success, it is not about you, it is about the team. You need everyone in the team to “step up to the plate” and play their part. In the process of innovating, not everyone needs to be “passionate about innovation”, but to have success, each person must be passionate about performing their role to their best ability.

When you have this behaviour, you are on the road to creating new value for your organization by turning creative thoughts into reality.