Innovation Starts With The Right Mindset

by Arlen Meyers

Innovation Starts With The Right MindsetMy back of the envelope observation is that about 1% of doctors, engineers and scientists have an entrepreneurial mindset and the 6 habits that define it, as described by Narang and Devaiah, in their book, “Orbit Shifting Innovation”:

1. Personal growth relates to the size of the challenge, not the size of the kingdom. What motivates real innovators is the more exciting challenge, not the number of people reporting to them. The “size of the difference” they will make is more inspiring than the “size of the business.” They relish getting out of their comfort zone, and into the unknown.

2. The new direction is the challenge, not the destination. The challenge is the transformation vehicle for true innovators, and not a performance goal. They focus on legacy creation, not legacy protection. They ignore failures and are constantly looking at the progress made. They treat innovations reviews like performance reviews.

3. Be an attacker of forces holding people back, not a defender. Real innovators start by questioning the world order rather than conforming to it. They begin by confronting the forces holding everyone back, rather than living with it. The forces include mindset gravity, organization gravity, industry gravity, country gravity, and cultural gravity. You need to be able to turn no to yes.

4. New insights come from a quest for questions, not a quest for answers. This discovery mindset searching for new questions drives real innovators away from more of the same. They fundamentally become value seekers; they look for value in every experience, in every conversation. They don’t seek prescriptions, they seek possibilities.

5. Stakeholders must be connected into the new reality, not convinced. True innovators tip stakeholders into adopting and even co-owning the orbit-shifting idea. They go about tipping the heart first, assuming the mind will follow. They seek smart people, who openly express their doubts, and then collaborate to overcome them.

6. Work from the challenge backward, rather than capability forward. Overcoming execution obstacles is combating dilution, not compromising, for these innovators. Their mindset is not “if-then” but “how and how else?” They convert problems to opportunities, and often the original idea grows far bigger than the starting promise

An idea is not an invention or an innovation. An idea is a thought that never sees the light of day. An invention is an idea reduced to practice. An innovation is something new or something old done in a new way that adds a substantial user defined multiple of value, at least 10x,  when compared to existing offerings or the status quo. Less than that is just an improvement. Disruptive innovation is something that makes an existing product more accessible and affordable, like sick care services.

What is a “mindset”? Experts vary, but, fundamentally, is it how and why we think about things the way we do and how we interpret the world. We use mental models, that, unlike most personality traits, are malleable, not fixed, and that drive our emotions and behavior.

Mental models are created by the internal conversations we have with ourselves and, those conversations, psychologists claim, create feelings that drive behavior. Negative thoughts drive negative behavior and vice versa. In other works, you will be become what you think.

Stanford Educational Psychologist Carol Dweck defines mindset as “implicit theories.” That is to say that it is the collection of assumptions and beliefs we use to represent how the world works. These theories are implicit because they are generally unexamined and frequently subconscious.

The biomedical entrepreneurial mindset describes a state of mind or mental model that is characterized by the pursuit of opportunity with scarce resources. The goal is to create stakeholder/customer/user-defined value through the deployment of biomedical or clinical innovation.When you examine the 4 components of the definition, it might give you some insight about the 1% question.

The pursuit of opportunity: Doctors see the opportunity to make patients better. Ideas become inventions and innovations when technopreneurs and market perceivers collide. There needs to be the right combination of problem seekers and problem solvers.

Using scarce resources: Doctors have all the resources they need at the click of a mouse. If anything, they have too many resources, which leads to waste and inappropriate treatments and tests.

Create user value: While consumerization of healthcare is gradually changing the calculus, doctors, for the most part, still call the shots. Patients are left with “my way or the highway.”

Deploying innovation: Most doctors don’t understand the difference between an idea, an invention, or an innovation or the difference between tinkering, a solution looking for a problem, incrementalism, or truly disruptive change. They think it’s a big deal when they tweak a model to get improvement instead of making the model obsolete.

Health professionals, scientists and engineers are not admitted to professional schools because they are imaginative or creatives. They are chosen because they conform to rigid standards. Consequently, the outcome is no surprise.

Rewiring your brain to see the world differently takes internal motivation, tools, triggers, coaching, rewards and practice. Here are 10 ways to get you started:

1. Connect  Expand your internal and external networks

2. Experiment. Try things that don’t cost much and measure what you learned

3. Observe. Innovators watch what everyone else watches, but they see different things

4. Question. Why not? Suppose we did it differently? What if?

5. Associate. As Jobs said, innovation is about connecting dots. Most of us just see dots.Innovators see patterns and opportunities.

6. Practice entrepreneurial habits.

7. Get inside Understand and adapt to how your attachment style determines your work style

8. Learn the basic science first. Organizational entrepreneurial mindsets are a lot like personal ones.

9. Acceptance. Most people do not have an entrepreneurial mindset. The percentage of adults involved in startups in 2012 hit 13%–a record high since Babson began tracking entrepreneurship rates in 1999. Unfortunately, of those that do, most will fail. When you realize you don’t have what it takes, cut your losses early and put yourself and a whole bunch of other people out of their misery and find something else to do.

10. Hang around the right people Find a mentor. Purge the doubting Thomases and negative Nancies from your Facebook page, since their half-empty mindsets are contagious.Network relelentlessly.

However, for intrapreneurs to thrive, there needs to be not just an intrapreneurial innovation mindset, but an organizational mindset as well. In other words, you must have a mindset match.

Build a common language of innovation on your team

Wait! Before you go…

Choose how you want the latest innovation content delivered to you:

Arlen MyersArlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at

Leave a Reply