Did you know there is more than one innovation style? Discovering which kind of innovator you are, could be transformative for you as a founder and the start-up you’re building. So, we’ve pulled together some expert insights, including our own, to reveal the main innovator types and what makes them tick.
Most experts agree there are four distinct preferred styles of innovation. While they may call them different names, or compare them to a suit of playing cards, the characteristics they describe for each innovation style are essentially the same.
1. The Explorer
Explorers can also be referred to as Generators, Ideators or Hearts. For people with this innovation style, seeing the big picture is second nature. They’re adept at spotting opportunities and generating high-level solutions to unmet needs. These innovator types are innately people focused. This means the solutions they propose for the opportunities they see are usually bang on the money when it comes to products and services consumers, or businesses will buy. But wait for it. If you’re thinking that Explorers tick all the boxes for innovation, think again. Explorers can struggle to progress beyond the high level. They can have difficulty articulating their ideas clearly. Turning their vision into action and following through on the ideas that they do get off the ground can be equally problematic for Explorers.
2. The Conceptualiser
Conceptualisers are also known as Clarifiers or Diamonds. Like their Explorer counterparts, they’re big-picture thinkers. But people with the Conceptualiser innovation style love collating, analysing and synthesising data to clearly identify and articulate opportunities. They are more drawn to analysing data and concepts and gravitate less to the people dynamics of innovation. Conceptualisers need to be mindful of getting stuck in analysis mode and not driving forward toward implementation.
3. The Optimiser
Sometimes called Developers, Modifiers or Spades, this style of innovator thrives when they can build on work that’s already been done. Their systematic, fact-based approach enables them to examine all possible alternatives and identify the best option. Optimisers excel at turning a high-level concept into a finely tuned solution. But they risk not seeing the wood for the trees and getting bogged down with striving for perfection rather than focusing on delivery.
4. The Implementer
Implementers, also known as Clubs, are doers. This innovator type puts solutions to work. They’re energised by delivering tangible outcomes from ideas. Always up for a challenge, Implementers focus on the bottom line and setting deadlines for projects. While they are strong on delivery, Implementers have a tendency to overlook the human aspects of innovation. In their impatience to get things done, they can push forward to the implementation stage too early.
Discover your innovation style
So what’s the best way to find your innovation style? Most tests rely on self-assessment questionnaires where you can consider what you like and don’t like to do, and what you do and don’t do well when you solve problems. The main limitation of any self-assessment survey is that it is inherently subjective. How you perceive yourself may be different to how others see you. And this could result in you missing important insights into your personal innovation style.
Stephen Shapiro’s Personality Poker team overcomes this by relying on a combination of self-assessment and peer assessment to help participants discover their innovator type. It can deliver some surprising insights, especially if your preferred innovation style clashes with the type of innovation you currently undertake. For example, you may self-identify as a Heart (Explorer) but be perceived as a Spade (Optimiser) because of your data-driven approach to developing finely crafted solutions in your business.
Maximising your mojo
It’s worth noting, at this juncture, that your innovation preference doesn’t necessarily equate to your innovation skill. So if you are a Conceptualiser trapped in an Optimiser role, pause before you hang up your lab coat for good. Instead, consider how you can leverage both your innovation preference and skill set to maximum effect. When it comes to making the most of your innovation type — personally and for your business — think about how the four different innovation styles fit with the different phases of the innovation journey both for you and your team.
Growth consultant, coach and CEO, Dave Power, identifies four distinct stages of innovation: observing, creating, prototyping and implementing. Once you know which innovation style you have, you can identify the stage(s) of the innovation process where you can add the most value. Crucially, you will know where your skill gaps are and the activities you need help with from people with different innovation styles.
The key takeaway is that birds of a feather stick together. So there’s a high chance you and your founding team have similar innovator profiles. But if you want your start-up to flourish and eventually scale up, you need to bring in different skill sets and perspectives. As Stephen Shapiro says, make sure your business is playing with the full deck. To do just that, you will need to seek out team members with different innovation styles from you. You may not always like what they have to say but bringing them into the tent is your golden ticket to having the high-performing team you need to succeed.
Capital to unlock your potential
Despite their differences, every innovation style has one thing in common. They all need capital. If you’re in the innovation game, whether your research is applied or blue sky, there’s every chance that you have R&D that’s eligible for the Federal Government’s R&D Tax Incentive (R&DTI) refund. Harness your inner Optimiser to ensure you meet the record-keeping requirements of the incentive. Having robust records is critical if you want to register and lodge a successful R&DTI application for your R&D expenditure. You can read all about contemporaneous records, how to keep them, the difference between core and supplementary R&D records and much more in our article, Contemporaneous records and the RDTI: what you need to know.
And if you qualify for the R&DTI refund, you’re eligible to apply for a Radium Advance to access your tax refund early. In a handful of business days, you’ll have the cash flow you need to keep your innovation moving at pace. So don’t delay. Get in touch to find out more today. We’re here to help you and your innovation business grow and thrive.
 Harvard Business Review. 2022. 4 Types of Innovators Every Organization Needs. [ONLINE] Available at: https://hbr.org/2022/10/4-types-of-innovators-every-organization-needs.
 What’s Your Innovation Style? . 2022. What’s Your Innovation Style? . [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/whats-your-innovation-style-jake-kent.