Monday, August 8, 2011

Innovation : Investigation - Open your mind

[FIND] Lexicon: Innovation: noun \ˌi-nə-ˈvā-shən\ 1 : the introduction of something new 2 : a new idea, method, or device

Harvard business professor and acclaimed author Clay Christensen leads the way in studies of innovation, says the latest issue of The Economist. He penned three books on the topic over the last 15 years: "The Innovator's Dilemma," "Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns," and "The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators."

In the latter, Christensen cites five habits of mind that lead to disruptive innovation: associating, questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting.

Sounds a lot like the habits of mind required to be a solid investigator. Let's break it down:

Associating - Professional investigators, the ones with whom you would want to work, always seek to broaden their associations. When a new detective hangs her shingle, I try to reach out. There's always something to learn from another professional. From the obvious organizational associations (ACFE, AIIP, etc.) to the simple teaming up with another investigator (or company) to attack a problem, associating can lead you to new ideas and methods.

Questioning - This one is pretty obvious. We, as professional investigators, constantly question methods, practices, and approaches to problems. We question motives, actions, and behavior. Questioning our methods and practices, though, tends to lead to the highest return in innovation.

Observing - Again, this one is fairly self evident. We observe. Surveillance, research, study, all methods of observation that we employ on a daily basis. The best detectives, however, turn that methodical study of behavior on themselves and their competition as well as their subjects. Watch how other people do their work. There's always something one can learn.

Networking - Networking is key to any business, any endeavor, any social exercise. When traveling, [FIND] Investigations staff is encouraged to look up a local PI with whom to share a coffee or a cocktail. It's almost mandatory. The network of friends, investigators, LEO, and researchers we've built over the years is our primary source for help, referrals, and new ideas. I could go on and on on this point, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. - all fine tools, implements that allow us to grow a superficial network of "friends." But when it comes to people to whom you can turn for advice, direction, and assistance, a web of actual people is invaluable. With that web of real people, social networking tools (FB, TW, LI, etc.) become a way to maintain those relationships.

Experimenting - Always, always, always try new things. Sometimes you may push the envelope more than you should (maybe even face a criminal trespass charge along the way), but without trying new ideas, new methods, new tools, you will never grow as an investigator. I've heard way too many people in this profession say, "That's just how we've always done it." Well, the day I utter that phrase, please shoot me. [FIND] Investigations likes to partner with tech geeks and information nerds, anything to shift the POV and see a problem in a new way. Processes are good, standards are necessary, but if you never push, you'll never excel and certainly never be an innovator.

Final thoughts - Disruptive innovation, that leap or step forward that makes a "ding in the universe" requires an open mind. All of the traits detailed by Christensen hint at one basic tenet: keep your mind open.

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