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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: August 2015

4 - Person: The Personal Resources That Support Innovation

from Part 1 - Basic Concepts


Innovation has been examined so far in terms of two building blocks: commercially salient products and the thinking processes leading to them. However, it can also be looked at in terms of the personal resources of individual people who engage in the process of generating commercially salient novelty. The need for an examination of such aspects of innovation was underlined by Dyer, Gregersen, and Christensen (2009, p. 60) in their review of the role of the person in innovation. They stated there that we “know very little about what makes one person more [innovative] than another.” Although they actually used the word creative in the passage just cited, the focus of their discussions was unmistakably innovation. Bearing in mind Nussbaum's (2013) call for a proactive approach (Chapter 1), these personal properties can be thought of as psychological resources (Rauch, Wiklund, Lumpkin, & Frese, 2009) that function as “antecedents of proactive behavior” (Parker, Williams, & Turner, 2006, p. 636). Anticipating later sections, these resources include:

(a) personal styles, such as openness to experience or tolerance for uncertainty

(b) affective states, such as motivation or feelings

(c) cognitive properties, such as expertise and information-processing skills

Conceptualizing Person in Innovation

In a discussion directly related to the person in innovation, Crant (2000, p. 440) referred to the proactive personality, and Parker, Williams, and Turner (2006) also described the proactive personality. More recently, Lynch, Walsh, and Harrington (2010) defined innovativeness as an “innate human personality trait” (p. 7). Collis (2010) also discussed the role of personality in innovation. However, the use of the term personality may raise problems for readers. In psychological discussions, personality is usually understood as involving traits such as conscientiousness, agreeableness, adaptability, persistence, or imaginativeness, or broad dispositions such as extraversion/introversion, which are thought to be at least partly biologically determined (see, for example, Eysenck, 1952) or to be laid down in early years and to remain stable throughout life, except perhaps when they are modified through therapy. An example of the latter is the psychoanalytic model of personality. Thus, the idea of the creative personality seems to suggest that the personal resources of the innovative individual consist of specific personality traits that are laid down very early and are immutable or nearly so, and lead the person who possesses the necessary traits more or less inevitably to emit innovative behavior.