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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…

15 More Reasons To Hope We'll Learn A Bit About This World

Friday was another day of rampant bloodshed and injustice in many parts of the globe, and a great one for international journalism on offer to the U.S.

The reason to be upbeat was the annual awarding of 15 working scholarships by the Overseas Press Club of America to early-career talents who are going abroad (in nearly every case, doing so again) to provide coverage of the world, for better or worse. Whether as reporters, photographers or both, they are committed to being the eyes and ears of an informed public.

The determined optimism of this annual event, held in New York by the OPC Foundation (disclosure: I am treasurer of the Club), was as always a brave face on a craft that is under siege from many directions, including the increasingly precarious finances of serious media and the blatant know-nothingism of broad swaths of the U.S. population. Real courage, however, is represented in the willingness of accomplished millennials to risk a field with little promise of good pay and the likelihood of hardship and even injury.

So: A budding management consultant instead is off to Nairobi to build on earlier “string” about Kenyan social compulsions (like skin lightening); an endurance athlete who contracted dengue fever while tracking religious conversions of Dalits in northeast India is headed back as a photojournalist on emerging-world health issues; a fellow who wrote about poor Mexicans migrating to carnival work in the U.S. before taking a bicycle ride across Russia’s Eurasian continent is returning to Moscow to report; and others with similarly novel experiences are off to now-hazardous postings in Bangkok, Mexico City and Jerusalem.

Seemingly the youngest of the lot, a University of Chicago senior (in modern Asian history and math) with a yen for multimedia, Dake Kang, will follow graduation with an internship at Forbes Philippines, our licensee publication with Summit Media there. Manila and beyond promise Dake excitement and challenge of their own.

Inspiring as it was to hear of these achievements and aspirations, it was also good for the few hundred journalists and supporters at the luncheon to get an admonition from Kathy Gannon, veteran correspondent for the Associated Press and the event’s keynoter. (Gannon herself embodies the drive and danger of “foreign” reporting—last year she and a photographic partner were hit by gunfire on long-term assignment in Afghanistan. Kathy was grievously wounded and her friend and colleague died in her arms.)

Though wishing the winners well in their heartfelt aims, Gannon cautioned them not to go out on a “mission”—but to follow the traditional reporting creed of fair-minded discovery and transmission: Get the facts; listen, watch and learn from everybody you can, on all sides. Let the public know the who, what and why.

It isn’t clear how big of an audience there actually is for the stories that explain why the world is as it is. It’s even less clear who is going to pay for this effort, either by purchasing the “content” or sponsoring it. Yet today I saw 15 great investments in that very uncertain future.