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The Five Characteristics of Successful Innovators

There is not much agreement about what makes an idea innovative, and what makes an innovative idea valuable. For example, discussions on whether the internet is a better invention than the wheel are more likely to reveal personal preferences than logical argumentation. Likewise, experts disagree on the type and level of innovation that is most beneficial for organizations. Somestudiessuggest that radical innovation (which does sound sexy) confers sustainable competitive advantages, butothersshow that “mild” innovation – think iPhone 5 rather than the original iPhone – is generally more effective, not least because it reduces market uncertainty. There is also inconclusive evidence on whether we should pay attention to consumers’ views, with somestudiesshowing that a customer focus is detrimental for innovation because it equates to playing catch-up, butothersarguing for it. Even Henry Ford’s famous quote on the subject – “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said fast…

.:: General Skill-Building Tips for Reading, Speaking, Listening, and Writing ::.

The best tips for English-language learners, students and job seekers to develop the Reading, speaking, listening, and writing skills
Students can follow the following tips 

Reading Tips 
English-language learners can improve their reading skills by reading regularly, especially university textbooks or other materials that cover a variety of subject areas (e.g., sciences, social sciences, arts, business, etc.) and are written in an academic style. A wide variety of academic texts are available on the Internet as well as in magazines and journals.

Reading to Find Information
  • Scan passages to find and highlight key facts (dates, numbers and terms) and information.
  • Practice frequently to increase reading rate and fluency. Reading for Basic Comprehension
  • Increase vocabulary. Flashcards can help.
  • Practice skimming a passage quickly to get a general impression of the main idea, instead of carefully reading each word and each sentence.
  • Develop the ability to skim quickly and identify major points.
  • After skimming a passage, read it again more carefully and write down the main idea, major points, and important facts.
  • Choose some unfamiliar words in the passage and guess the meaning from the context (surrounding sentences). Then, look them up to determine their meaning.
  • Underline all pronouns (e.g., he, him, they, them, etc.) and identify the nouns to which they refer in the passage.
  • Practice making inferences and drawing conclusions based on what is implied in the passage as a whole.
Reading to Learn
  • Identify the passage type (e.g., classification, cause/effect, compare/ contrast, problem/solution, description, narration, etc.) and its organization.
  • Organize the information in the passage:
    • Create an outline of the passage to distinguish between major and minor points.
    • If the passage categorizes information, create a chart and place the information in appropriate categories
  • Create an oral or written summary of the passage using the charts and outlines.
  • Paraphrase individual sentences in a passage. Then, paraphrase entire paragraphs.
Listening Tips 
Listening to the English language frequently and reading a wide variety of academic materials is the best way to improve listening skills. Watching movies and television, and listening to the radio provide excellent opportunities to build listening skills. Audiotapes and CDs of lectures and presentations are equally valuable and are available at libraries and bookstores. Those with transcripts are particularly helpful. The Internet is also a great resource for listening material (e.g., or ).

Listening for Basic Comprehension
  • Increase vocabulary.
  • Focus on the content and flow of spoken material. Do not be distracted by the speaker’s style and delivery.
  • Anticipate what a person is going to say as a way to stay focused.
  • Stay active by asking yourself questions (e.g., What main idea is the professor communicating?).
  • Copy the words, “main idea, major points, and important details” on different lines of paper. Listen carefully, and write these down while listening. Continue listening until all-important points and details are written down and then review them.
  • Listen to a portion of a lecture or talk and create an outline of important points. Use the outline to write a brief summary. Gradually increase the amount of the presentation you use to write the summary.
Listening for Pragmatic Understanding
  • Think about what each speaker hopes to accomplish: What is the purpose of the speech or conversation? Is the speaker apologizing, complaining, or making suggestions?
  • Notice each speaker’s style. Is the language formal or casual? How certain does each speaker sound? Is the speaker’s voice calm or emotional? What does the speaker’s tone of voice tell you?
  • Notice the speaker’s degree of certainty. How sure is the speaker about the information? Does the speaker’s tone of voice indicate something about his/her degree of certainty?
  • Listen for changes in topic or digressions.
  • Watch a recorded TV or movie comedy. Pay careful attention to the way stress and intonation patterns are used to convey meaning. Listening to Connect and Synthesize12 Ideas
  • Think about how the lecture you are hearing is organized. Listen for the signal words that indicate the introduction, major steps or ideas, examples, and the conclusion or summary.
  • Identify the relationships between ideas. Possible relationships include cause/effect, compare/contrast, and steps in a process.
  • Listen for words that show connections and relationships between ideas.
  • Listen to recorded material and stop the recording at various points. Predict what information or idea will be expressed next.
  • Create an outline of the information discussed while listening or after listening.
Speaking Tips 

The best way to practice speaking is with native speakers of English. If you do not live in an English-speaking country, finding native speakers of English might be quite challenging. In some countries, there are English-speaking tutors or assistants who help students with conversation skills and overall communication skills. It is critical to find them and speak with them as often as possible. Another way to practice speaking is by joining an English club whose members converse in English about movies, music, and travel. If a club does not exist in your area, start one and invite native speakers to help you get started.

Independent Speaking Tasks
  • Make a list of topics that are familiar, and practice speaking about them.
  • Describe a familiar place or recount a personal experience.
  • Later, state an opinion or a preference and present clear, detailed reasons for it.
  • Make a recommendation and explain why it is the best way to proceed.
  • Practice giving one-minute responses to topics.
Integrated Speaking Tasks
  • Find a textbook that includes questions about the material at the end of chapters, and practice answering the questions orally.
  • Read a short article (100–200 words). Make an outline that includes only the major points of the article. Use the outline to orally summarize the information.
  • Find listening and reading material on the same topic covered by the article. The material can contain similar or different views. Take notes or create outlines on the listening and reading material
    • Orally summarize the information in both the written and spoken materials. Be sure to paraphrase using different words and grammatical structures.
    • Orally synthesize the material by combining the information from the reading and listening materials and explain how they relate.
    • State an opinion about the ideas and information presented in the reading and listening material and explain how they relate.
    • If the reading and/or listening material describes a problem, suggest and explain a solution to the problem.
  • Recognize the attitude of the speaker or the writer of the original material through intonation, stress, and word choice. This helps to understand their point of view and plan an appropriate response.
All Speaking Tasks
  • Increase vocabulary and learn to use idiomatic speech appropriately.
  • Learn grammatical structures and use them naturally when speaking.
  • Work on pronunciation, including word stress, intonation patterns, and pauses.
  • When practicing for the TOEFL iBT using the tips above, take 15 seconds to think about what you’re going to say before you speak. Write down a few key words and ideas, but do not attempt to write down exactly what you are going to say.
  • Use signal words and expressions to introduce new information or ideas, to connect ideas, and to mark important words or ideas. This will help the listener easily follow what you are saying. (For example, “on the one hand…,” “but on the other hand…,” “what that means is…,” “The first reason is…,” “another difference is…”)
  • Make recordings of the above activities and evaluate your effort by asking yourself these questions:
    • Did I complete the task?
    • Did I speak clearly?
    • Did I make grammatical errors?
    • Did I use words correctly?
    • Did I organize my ideas clearly and appropriately?
    • Did I use the time effectively?
    • Did I speak too fast or too slowly?
    • Did I pause too often?
Writing Tips 
Integrated Writing Tasks
  • Find a textbook that includes questions about the material at the end of chapters and practice writing answers to the questions.
  • Read an article that is about 300–400 words long. Make an outline that includes the major points and important details of the article. Use the outline to write a summary of the information and ideas. Summaries should be brief and clearly communicate only the major points and important details. Be sure to paraphrase using different words and grammatical structures.
  • Find listening and reading material on a single topic on the Internet or in the library.
The material can provide similar or different views. Take notes on the written and spoken portions, and do the following:
  • Summarize the information and ideas in both the written and spoken portions.
  • Synthesize the information and discuss how the reading and listening materials relate. Explain how the ideas expressed are similar, how one idea expands upon another, or how the ideas are different or contradict each other.
Paraphrasing involves restating something from the source material in one’s own words. On the TOEFL iBT, test takers receive a score of zero if all they do is copy words from the reading passage. Practice paraphrasing words, phrases, sentences, and entire paragraphs frequently using the following tips:
  • Learn to find synonyms with ease. Pick 10 to 15 words or phrases in a reading passage and quickly think of synonyms without looking them up in a dictionary or thesaurus.
  • Write a paraphrase of a reading passage using only your notes. If you haven’t taken notes, write the paraphrase without looking at the original text. Then check the paraphrase with the original passage to make sure that it is factually accurate and that you have used different words and grammatical structures.
Independent Writing Tasks
  • Make a list of familiar topics and practice writing about them.
  • For each topic state an opinion or a preference and then support it with evidence.
  • Practice planning and writing at least one essay for each topic. Be sure to take 30 minutes to plan, write, and revise each essay.
  • Think about and list all ideas related to a topic or task before writing. This is also called “prewriting.”
  • Identify one main idea and some major points to support that idea, and plan how to communicate them (by creating, for example, an outline to organize ideas).
  • Create a focused thesis statement and use it to develop the ideas presented in the essay.
  • Develop the essay by using appropriate explanation and detail.
All Writing Tasks
  • Increase vocabulary and knowledge of idiomatic speech so you can use it appropriately.
  • Learn grammatical structures so well that you can use them naturally when writing.
  • Learn the conventions of spelling, punctuation, and layout (e.g., paragraph creation).
  • Express information in an organized manner, displaying unity of thought and coherence.
  • Use signal words and phrases, such as “on the one hand” or “in conclusion,” to create a clear structure for your response.
  • As you practice ask yourself these questions:
    • Did I complete the task?
    • Did I write clearly?
    • Did I make grammatical errors?
    • Did I use words correctly?
    • Did I organize my ideas clearly and coherently?
    • Did I use the time effectively?