Thinking outside the box, circle, triangle and star

outside the box innovation CSC Blogs

When great minds discuss ideas, they certainly have fun doing so.

Michael Billimoria, our CTO for Consulting in UXC, and I have been exchanging ideas recently about new and innovative ways of working. (We also discussed the Exponential Edge blog that I wrote last month.) We decided to work together on a collaborative piece on innovation, offering some hopefully inspiring thoughts on what it takes to be an innovator.

We’d love to have you join the discussion in the comments or on social media (@GeoSuperGirl @mbillimoria).

Michael discussed the idea that many of us do not stop to think about the way we use terms like “leading” or “bleeding” edge. Interestingly, he says, we use “outside the box” and other words and phrases that have potentially scary connotations about innovation. Aside from a change in the language, he says, “Organisations could do more to celebrate those who work on innovation.”

(Michael, by the way, has been instrumental in leading innovation activities, and our company was even nominated for the 2016 Australian Financial Review (AFR) Most Innovative Companies Awards.)

When Michael and I looked further into the types of people who like to work on the leading edge, we identified a few categories or stages:

  • Edge Followers
    • Those who want to be on the leading edge because:
      • It’s edgy.
      • It’s trendy.
      • It’s good for their ego.
    • They tend to work alone and need guidance and advice in order to become a soloist, visionary or exponential opportunist.
  • Edge Soloists
    • They go it alone (for the time being).
    • They have not yet developed their idea enough to share with the world.
    • They have one of two trusted confidantes.
    • They can be confused as a follower and easily misunderstood.
    • They will develop a story.
    • They are often scared by the unknown but once they overcome this fear, they can become a Visionary and/or Opportunist.
  • Edge Visionaries
    • They do things to push market boundaries.
    • They are not concerned about market adoption.
    • They see innovation as revolution.
    • They are extremely collaborative.
    • They can cross over into an Edge Exponential Opportunists.
  • Edge Exponential Opportunists
    • These individuals are on the leading edge because they see a pragmatic opportunity that no one has exploited yet.
    • They do things for their organisation and tend to be collaborative.
    • They see innovation as evolution.
    • They see innovation as revolution.
    • They can often spot the skills in others and want to help others to get there.

Breena Sneiderman talks in Forbes about the five personalities of innovation: Experimenters, Controllers, Hangers on, Movers and Shakers and Star Pupils. She talks about the fact that the entrepreneurial mindset can come from any of these five areas, which I completely agree with. However, we have to ensure that we look after these people and help them to grow and walk the edge. It is certainly worth a read.

When we look at these types of people compared to the innovator categories Michael and I came up with, it becomes evident that there is a circle and a triangle present, but alas there is no Box.


Innovators CSC Blogs


Another innovation enthusiast Amy Jo Kim talked about four types of innovators — Sole, Company, Start-up and High Leverage — in a 2015 blog post. Her ideas capture the different roles people may play in innovation, from working as part of a small team to trying to effect change for a large organisation.

Figure 2 show the three different ideas about innovation in one chart.

Innovation CSC Blogs

Now the box shows up. But I’d actually like to remove the Box and focus on the circle and triangle for a true depiction of the different types of innovators. In other words, it should not matter whether you are a company or a start-up; it’s how and what you do that matters, I think.

What do you think?

Regardless, it’s fascinating to categorize people in the types of innovators we encounter in the field. It is also easy to see that if we lose our passion and love for new and future technologies, we can potentially drop to being an Edge Follower. We need to keep up our skills and ensure we are sharing with other like-minded people, or our skills can easily be lost.

Having an Exponential Opportunistic mind, which loves being on the edge and loves helping others to walk that edge, can push the boundaries, especially if we do it together. When great minds get together, the edge is a less lonely and much more fun place to be.

What’s your take on these innovator categories? Do you see one that matches your personality?

Sarah James was ANZ lead for Authentic Leadership in DXC and an advocate for DXC’s Women in Leadership and STEM. Prior to leaving DXC in September 2017, Sarah founded the Empowering Future Leaders blog and was its primary author. With over 15 years of experience in the world of IT, Sarah’s specialty is spatial information and includes integration on projects as diverse as mapping volcanoes in Hawaii to delivering high-tech police vehicles.


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  1. Directorios de empresas existen muchos, pero conforme mi experiencia ninguno
    como Indizze recibe múltiples miles de visitas al día
    de personas y empresas que está buscando un negocio como
    el tuyo.

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