June 29, 2012
Skillset vs. Mindset


Yesterday, as one of my favorite clients was introducing me as the day's presenter at one of her company's leadership development programs, something she said caught my attention:

"Innovation skills."

That's what she was telling the 41 business leaders of the future they were going to learn from me.

Yes, it was true. I was going to help these good people become more skillful at innovating. That's what I do. But that was only half the story.

Actually, less than half. Much less.

If there's one thing I've learned these past 25 years of working as an innovation provocateur, it's this: mindset -- not skillset -- is the name of the game in business these days, no matter what the rules or lack thereof.


When a person's mindset (i.e. receptivity, curiosity, adaptability, enthusiasm, focus) is in the right place, skillset becomes secondary.

Is acquiring new skills useful? Of course it is.

If you're about to have surgery, you want to know the man with the scalpel knows what he's doing, But all the skills in the world become useless if the mind of the physician is cloudy.

I'm talking attitude. Viewpoint. Approach. Not what you look at, but what you see.

Psychologists have boiled down the phenomenon to three words: "Motivation affects perception".

If you're driving through a town and are hungry, what do you see? Restaurants. If you're running out of gas, it's gas stations you notice. And if someone you love is dying, you become suddenly amazed at how many funeral parlors there are.

My mentor once put it this way: "When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees are his pockets."

Bottom line, if you want to jump start innovation -- in your self, in your team, or your company, begin paying more attention to mindset. Be willing to make the effort required to help yourself and others enter into the frame of mind most conducive to innovating.

Because in the end, it's less about where you're going, than where you're coming from.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at June 29, 2012 11:35 PM

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