What does it mean to Be Innovative?

 By Janet  L. Sernack   Editor”s Note: Janet  L. Sernack  is our latest contributor from Israel, she gained her consulting, education, facilitation, training and executive coaching skills, from …


 By Janet  L. Sernack


Editor”s Note:

Janet  L. Sernack  is our latest contributor from Israel, she gained her consulting, education, facilitation, training and executive coaching skills, from over 30 years of experience in the manufacturing and retailing and learning and development businesses to Australia’s top 100 companies as Compass Learning Pty Ltd.She now resides on the Mediterranean Coast, in Israel where she founded an Israeli Start-Up, ImagineNation, which is an imaginative, generative & provocative global learning & development company that allows coaches, managers, leaders and organisations to develop their innovative and entrepreneurial leadership capability through enterprise gamification (The Start-Up Game) innovation labs and online learning programs (The Coach for Innovators ICF CCE Certified Program).One of the things Janet said to me recently was” how come everyone is talking about Innovation and no one talks about being Innovative”Do join her free Webinar this week here:


“People cannot be Innovative unless they first develop the Intrinsic Motivation, Mindsets, Behaviours and Practices of Innovation”


I have recently participated in a wide variety of online discussions on the skills required to effect Innovation. In fact the majority of the authors currently popular in the Innovation space also focus heavily towards the development of specific innovation skills. My 25 years of corporate consulting in the organisational development space, to some of Australasia’s largest and most successful companies coupled with my relocation to Israel, the Start-Up Nation, have caused me to challenge this approach.

People cannot Be Innovative unless they first develop the Intrinsic Motivation, Mindsets, Behaviours and Practices of Innovation.

For example, author Clayton Christensen, in his book ‘The Innovators DNA’ has outlined the 5 Discovery Skills that need to be developed to effect Innovation:

a)   Questioning

b)   Observing

c)   Experimenting

d)   Networking

e)   Associating

What he hasn’t outlined is who I need to BE, what motivates me to be Innovative in the first place, in Israel, the core intrinsic motivation is necessity. Deprived of natural wealth and scarce natural resources, constant threats and geographical isolation, Israeli’s have become the global masters of Disruptive Technological Innovation.

Compared to Australia, where I was born and raised, with its abundance of natural wealth and resources, its egalitarian and secure society, Australians have tended to become conventional and complacent. There is an incredible opportunity to‘ awaken’ them to the possibilities Being Innovative offers them.

Once the intrinsic motivation is ignited, there are a series of core mindsets that need to cultivated and mastered before I am receptive to learning the skills required to deeply question, observe, experiment, network and associate.

For example, to become an effective questioner, I need to BE Intentional around the purpose or focus of my questions, and know what the outcome is I want to HAVE for my problem or focal point?

I then need to Pay Attention to the quality and impact of my mood, feelings and thoughts on my behaviour.

I need to ensure that they are receptive, open to and focussed towards achieving my desired outcome and or developing the desired skill set.

If the most useful mindsets and moods are not embodied, I will not be able to develop a new skill.

In other words I need to open my mind, be aware of, and dispel judgements and manage my beliefs, thoughts and perceptions around the subject being discussed or the answer. If I do not do this I may not be open to, or able to hear what is being said and may miss the possibility that is being opened up in the conversation! My mind may also sabotage me from even wanting to learn the skill, or being receptive to an idea that may be different to my own, by creating negative ‘self talk.’

I also need to come from an open heart, or I will not be able to connect or create mutuality or ‘safe space’ with the person I am questioning. If I do not create empathy and the space for real dialogue to occur, then the person I am interacting with may become avoidant, defensive and/or disengaged. If they are in this kind of emotional state, they will not engage with me in any kind of useful way.

No matter how great your questioning skills are, they will not uncover possibilities or opportunities if someone is not willing to contribute, ‘be’ or ‘play’ with you.

Finally, coming from detachment and allowing creates an open will, this creates space for the answers to emerge naturally from the conversation. No-one is forcing their agenda, or outcome on the other. This is how new and creative ideas emerge!

So, I suggest that some of the mindsets to teach effective Questioning might include:

Being present,

Being curiosity,

Coming from possibility,

Being courageous,

Be willing to challenge and differ,

Be detached,

Allow the space to just be,

Be empathic.

If we don’t teach people how to BE when generating questions, no amount of skills development will generate imaginative and innovative answers or surprising solutions!

Alternately, in our Western cultures we seem to find it difficult to be appropriately assertive and challenging in our communications.

This hesitation and politeness creates cycles of collusion and a range of passive and conventional responses. What is really needed for innovation to occur is an active debate process not one which seeks to make one party ‘wrong’ and the other ‘right’.  This stimulates and generates surprising ‘out of the box’ answers and solutions.

Ideas can then be challenged, dismissed, reinvented, until the high level of meta thinking is achieved.

Finally, generative debate has the power to create mindset shifts or what I like to call, in the Innovation context, ‘mindset flips’.
These are required to create the perceptual shifts or a ‘crack in the field’. This creates the empty space that enables us to re-imagine what is possible, and to find and see the opportunities existing in our ‘plain sight’.



In this article

Join the Conversation