Two Kinds of Innovators
Innovators come in two forms – hunters and gatherers. Are you a hunter or a gatherer innovator? Understanding this distinction is critical in your innovation efforts. It will make you a more self aware innovator. It will be critical for your innovation success.
Think of hunters and gatherers. What comes to your mind? When you think of a hunter, you visualize someone who is quick and strong. Someone who will seek a hunt far away on the horizon and will move quickly. Someone who will see minor differences in the landscape to search for a hunt. When you visualize a gatherer you see someone who is meticulous, slow, and deliberate. Someone who will stay within a smaller area and look closely at potential food in that area. Someone who will notice changes in the here and now rather than on the horizon. Who is more important? Both were important for human survival. Depending on the context, one may have been more important than the other at different times.
Similarly, hunter and gatherer innovators are different from each other. They notice different things. They connect dots at different levels and create different types of innovations. Above all, they find meaning in different types of innovations.
Hunter innovators have a panoramic view of the world and they see changes on the horizon. They see far into the future or across industries. They connect the dots at a broad level, between trends across consumers, technologies, and industries. They create new to the world products and sometimes create new industries.
Gatherer innovators have a deeper view of a much smaller area. They may understand and notice microscopic changes in the consumers or technology. They connect the dots at lower levels and often create innovations that unlock value or make business more profitable. They often create developmental innovations. Although hunters create major innovations, gatherers make these innovations profitable.
Different Innovator Language
They also speak a different language. Steve Jobs told John Scully of Pepsi “do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world”. That was a hunter innovator communicating. It is a different language from what a gatherer innovator speaks. Procter & Gamble’s website says “making your day better, in small but meaningful ways”. Those are words of a gatherer innovator. Both are innovators but they communicate in different ways. They seek different things and find meaning in different types of innovations.
Is one Better?
Is one of them better than the other? Actually, both of them are valuable for companies and both are essential. Without the hunters, new to the world products will not be born. Without the gatherers, they won’t become profitable. Depending on the kind of business and the stage of life cycle, one type of innovator will become more important than the other. Insurance industry needed gatherer innovators for the last 100 years. Today, as the tectonic plates of the industry shifts, these companies need hunters. If you are a hunter in the financial services arena, Insurance should be on your radar.
Why you need to know your type?
It is important for you to know what kind of innovator you are? If you are a gatherer, you need to seek out businesses where those innovations are critical. This will ensure your create innovations that are most valued by the business. If you end up where hunters are more needed, you may find yourself out of place. If you are a hunter, you will not enjoy working in a business that needs gatherers.
What innovation types do regularly work on? What kind of an innovator does that make you?