Synthesizers and the Drive to Innovate!!

Attended an excellent talk last night at the Chicago Graduate School of Business. Bill Burnett is an expert on innovation – specifically how to identify and organize the people you need to innovate in your organization. He led a far-reaching discussion on the skills necessary to develop innovative solutions and the conditions leaders need to create in order to foster those conditions.


Bill believes that synthesis skills are critical in order to create innovative solutions. Synthesis is the ability to match patterns from the past to solve present problems. It’s the process of combining existing knowledge to create new knowledge. Often these skills come from a novice or an outsider. Synthesizers are people who are able to sort through and reorganize the available information into ways that solve difficult problems.


Synthesis can be taught and developed, but more often than not these skills become a natural outgrowth of a certain personality. Synthesizers are people with broad interests and expertise; search for truth, rather than credit; have little regard for hierarchy or position; and acts based on what’s right, rather than what’s easy. Often, these people are outcasts because they march to the beat of a different drummer. Finding people with these skills is difficult because of those personalities and the fact that most position searches look for expertise, not the ability to assemble expertise.


Bill also talked about the need to build an environment built on the search for truth, creation of a peerage system, and fostering Adult-to-Adult communication. The idea is to create an environment where equals work together to find the best answers, facilitated by rational discussions of facts. It sounds easy and straight forward, but actually requires clarity, persistence, and a unique skill set to pull it all together.


If you are in Chicago and have the opportunity to hear Bill speak, GO!!! If not, visit his website: www.wburnettllc.com.


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