“I have never thought of myself as innovative. I figure the folks in marketing and R&D can take care of our innovation needs while I spend my work life just doing my job. But recently I read that we all have the capacity to be innovative, even conservative people like me. Should I focus on being an innovator?”
Being an innovator, in my opinion, does not have much to do with personality. Csikszentmihalyi, who studied creativity in a variety of people, found that you can be a happy extrovert like Raphael or a conservative introvert like Michelangelo. Or on the business side, one might think of Toyota who, according to Jeffrey Liker (The Toyota Way), is a very conservative company that makes decisions slowly, but implements quickly.
The key is more in the discipline of innovation or creativity. Although it is hard to create something new, the skills required to do so are discoverable!
Unfortunately, learning how to engage with non-routine challenges is not taught in schools or universities. More often people have had sought those kinds of projects in extracurricular activities that lie beyond the conventional curriculum.
On the personal side, one can begin the innovator’s journey by creating a wider and deeper space for creativity. For a playful exploration of this territory, take a look at How BIG is your Creative Space? and How DEEP is your Creative Space?.