Recipe or Secret Sauce: The Innovators Special Blend

Innovators embody characteristics similar to the best recipes but like all great recipes there is often a secret sauce.


In 2008, I was given the incredible opportunity to assist NASA with determining the value proposition associated with the utilization of new techniques and tools to approach problem solving. At the time, crowdsourcing was a fairly new and very innovative methodology that was rising in popularity. This was largely due to its ability to effectively harness a worldwide wisdom and apply expertise in novel ways. You are able to tap into unique expertise of many instead of hiring an expert of one. This was a valuable concept for NASA because the Agency is consistently faced with shrinking resources and an ever expanding and challenging technical workload. Over the years I was privileged to work with numerous diverse and dynamic innovators worldwide. As a result, I began noticing 5 key characteristics embodied by individuals, who were consistently developing new ideas or considered to be “innovative” by their peers.



Individuals leading the way demonstrate absolute conviction in the idea or cause that they are championing. The PASSION that innovators emit is not only intense for the idea but is also infectious to others around them. Others cannot help but become enthusiastic or receptive to the idea. Often, these are the people within the organization that tend to threaten the die-hard status quo population (those who always resist change or late adopters) and often irritate others because they are viewed as too “gung-ho” or intense to be around. However, this trait was always a critical part of the recipe for gaining organizational support. If you know one of these personality types, they are your change agent within the organization to evolve, grow and remain a competitive force in industry. Embrace and Leverage them! In addition, their PASSION solidifies their complete devotion to the idea, creating a personal long term commitment to the success of the endeavor including enabling and supporting its adoption.



New ideas or those associated with change can create a perceived threat within an organization and illicit incredible resistance by the troops. This is especially true if the new way forward calls into question the comfort zone and homeostasis of an organization or group. Successful innovators are unbelievably PERSISTENT and wear a body armor of resiliency because they often face many battles and backlash on the path to acceptance. Every step forward will be a march uphill, each step feeling like stepping in quicksand facing opposition head-on. PERSISTENCE is a quality that will carry you through to the point of catalyzing the culture shift, driving eventual acceptance and adoption of the “new way”.



We all know those people that have the ability to command a room as soon as they enter it or the ability to create an immediate connection to us within moments. These individuals have an innate ability to create personal PRESENCE. To capture the attention and interest of others you must have complete confidence in yourself and an unshakable comfort with communicating and working with others. This establishes a strong acknowledgement of your PRESENCE among peers and gives them reason to pause and receive your message. PRESENCE can also be considered charisma and a key leadership trait, without it you will be unable to persuade non-believers to support your ideas or inspire those early adopters to co-champion the cause.



Not to be confused with charisma, but another critical character trait is a trustworthy PERSONALITY. There are many different personality types in the world and we all recognize those within the organization or personal group affiliations that seem to become the “trusted entity”. Specifically, those we seek out for advice or as a champion. Trust is not automatically created and earned, trust is only granted to you by others. This occurs when the innovator demonstrates a consistent track record of working with peers and delivering desired results whether personally or professionally. Innovators who naturally build rapport, embody integrity, and build faith in their abilities will drive trust in their intentions because of their PERSONALITY. A likable disposition with sound strategies and credible results goes a long way to creating a credible PERSONALITY and trusted approach when new innovations or ideas are introduced.



For every great idea or call to action there has to be an undeniable need that drives its inception. It is far more than having determination to drive an idea, there must be PURPOSE behind the idea. More specifically, solving a problem that is in need of a solution. All too often, entrepreneurs fail because they are pitching a solution in search of a problem. The television show Shark Tank does a great job of demonstrating these nuances through those who get deals vs. those who leave empty handed. It almost always comes down to not solving a true problem. Unfortunately not all ideas are needed or introduced at the right time, those that are have a PURPOSE to fulfill for the world and often introduce game changing innovations.


Innovators embody characteristics similar to the best recipes but like all great recipes there is often a secret sauce. The recipe includes some principle characteristics, the 5 P’s, that seem to be commonly held among innovative people, but we recognize that no two innovators are exactly the same. Each one of us has a proprietary blend of these characteristics that lead to uniqueness between innovations and their impact. I like to call that our SECRET SAUCE.


Recognize any of these characteristics in you or Innovators you know and love? Join the discussion!

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